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Voting begins in Spanish elections as protests continue

Tens of thousands of people protesting against Spain’s soaring unemployment rate have defied a ban on political protests ahead of the country’s regional elections.

Tens of thousands of people take part in a demonstration in Madrid, Saturday, May 21, 2011.
Tens of thousands of people take part in a demonstration in Madrid, Saturday, May 21, 2011.
Image: Arturo Rodriguez/AP/Press Association Images

DEMONSTRATORS IN SPAIN are continuing to gather despite a ban on political protests ahead of the country’s regional elections.

About 30,000 people have gathered in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square to express their anger at the government’s economic policies and the country’s high unemployment rate, the BBC reports. Similar protests are taking place in Bilbao, Seville, Barcelona and Valencia.

Spain has the highest unemployment rate in the European Union at 21.3 per cent.

Protest organisers are urging people not to support either of Spain’s main parties – either the current Socialist government or the centre-right opposition Popular Party – in today’s polls, reports Reuters.

Despite Spanish law forbidding political protests on the day before elections, to allow for a “day of reflection”, police did not attempt to move demonstrators on Saturday. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has said that he understands the protesters – and announced last month he would not seek a third term, CNN reports.

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