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Jose Luiz Rodriguez Zapatero is under political pressure after a week of national protests and an electoral slaughter. AP

Ruling Socialists take battering in Spanish local elections

The party of prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero loses most of its power, triggering calls for early general elections.

THE PARTY OF Spain’s ruling prime minister has been mauled in the country’s  local and regional elections, triggering calls for Jose Luiz Rodriguez Zapatero to step down and call an early general election.

Sunday’s elections saw the Socialist Party ousted from control of most of the country’s city councils, and almost all of the country’s 17 autonomous communities, heaping further pressure on Zapatero’s regime.

His popularity was already at new lows after a week of public protests which had gripped the centre of the capital, Madrid, and other cities last week.

The main victor of the elections was the centre-right People’s Party, which did best in areas of high unemployment like Castilla-La Mancha and the former Socialist safe haven of Seville.

The BBC quotes Zapatero as acknowledging that the country’s ongoing economic problems had taken their toll on his administration’s popularity.

It destroyed thousands of jobs. It is a crisis that had profound effects on citizens’ morale. I know that many Spaniards suffer great hardship and fear for their futures.

When aggregated nationwide, the Guardian reports, the PP’s lead over the Socialists was as high as 10 per cent – the highest, the paper said, since Spain reverted to democracy following the ousting of General Francisco Franco in 1978.

Zapatero’s cabinet is not under any immediate threat in parliament, however, with the opposition not commanding enough support to pass a motion of no confidence in the administration.

General elections are to be held by March next year at the latest.

Spanish markets have nonetheless reacted negatively to the government’s defeat, with the IGBM index on the Spanish stock exchange down by 1.5 per cent as of lunchtime Monday.

Spanish government debt also became less attractive, with the 10-year yield up to 5.563 per cent, close to its record of just over 5.6 per cent hit in late April.

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