Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Politics: Spanish Elections

When I finally arrived in Spain, the country was in the midst of their general elections. I had no idea what the political parties or issues were like in the country, but like in the United States, there were plenty of campaign signs and placards telling people to vote. Eventually, I gathered that the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers' Party) and the PP (People's Party) were the two big parties contending for votes.

Spain, if you recall, was attacked only days before their 2004 elections by terrorists in the Madrid train bombings, which killed nearly 200 people. The failures of the PP in handling the attacks, as well as the fact that many in Spain believed the attacks were retaliation for Spain's participation in the Iraq War, led to the Socialists gaining power. The PSOE eventually won the 2008 election, with incumbent Prime Minister Zapatero being reelected by a comfortable margin.

The curious thing about Spanish politics is the existence of politically significant minority parties, such as the regional Catalan party and the Basque nationalists. This is pretty strange to U.S. voters, almost like if the Green or Libertarian parties managed to field Congressional representatives. Then again, it's worth noting that Spain only has a population of 45 million; in the U.S. it's difficult to forge a third party with true national influence.


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