Economic woes to the fore as Spain goes to polls

Economic woes to the fore as Spain goes to polls

Spanish opposition leader Mariano Rajoy and his conservative Popular Party were expected to win control of Parliament in a landslide, even though Rajoy has said little about what his party would do to fight Spain’s sky-high unemployment, painful austerity measures and piles of debt.

A win for Rajoy, 56, would bring the conservatives back to power after nearly eight years of rule by Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

On social policy, he put a patently liberal stamp on traditionally Catholic Spain by legalizing gay marriage and ushering in other northern European-style reforms. But on economic matters Zapatero has been widely criticised as first denying, then reacting late and erratically, to Spain’s slice of the global financial crisis and the implosion of a real estate bubble that had fuelled Spanish GDP growth robustly for nearly a decade.

Unlike Italy and Greece, which recently replaced their elected governments with bureaucrats in an attempt to better cope with the euro crisis, Spain will stick with an elected government.

“I am ready for whatever Spaniards may want,” said Rajoy after casting his vote on Sunday.

Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, Rajoy’s Socialist opponent, urged his supporters not to let a low turnout reduce his party’s chances. “The next four years are going to be very important for our future,” he said. “The big decisions that have to be taken must be made by citizens, so it’s important to vote," he said.