March 10, 2008


Back to the Future with Zapatero: It was a bitter campaign full of recriminations. But Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero emerged victorious on Sunday. Still, despite gaining seats in the parliament, he has a difficult road ahead. (Manuel Meyer, 3/10/08, Der Spiegel)

Against all expectations, the Socialists were able to notch up a historic election victory in Catalonia, which is Spain's strongest region economically. The party will now have 25 members seated in the regional parliament in Barcelona.

The victory came at the expense of the radical-nationalist Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), an on-again, off-again coalition partner in the Catalonia regional government. The party has made life difficult for the Catalonia Socialists (PSC) with its constant demands for greater autonomy from Spain. The concessions PSC made to the regionalists often went too far for Zapatero's taste. Nevertheless, and to the Socialists' surprise, it did just as little damage to the party's image as the constant power outages and chaotic train service. ERC lost a total of five seats in the national parliament in Madrid -- and with only three members of parliament now, it will hardly be able to demand the kind of concession in exchange for support as it did in the past.

The moderate Catalan nationalist party Convergencia I Unio (CIU), which picked up an additional mandate, bringing its total number to 11, could become much more interesting to the Catalonia Socialists as a coalition partner.

Zapatero's courageous policies of decentralization have clearly paid off. The subject of deep hostility from the conservative opposition, who accused him of gambling away "Spanish unity," Zapatero allowed his party friends in Barcelona to create a new regional statute for Catalonia that not only provided the region with greater autonomy from Madrid, but also defined it for the first time as a "nation."

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 10, 2008 12:09 AM
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