Spanish right celebrates landslide election win

Spanish right celebrates landslide election win

Mariano Rajoy, the bearded 56-year-old leader of the conservative Popular Party, literally jumped for joy as he proclaimed victory.

"Forty-six million Spaniards are going to wage a battle against the crisis," he told a sea of cheering supporters from a balcony outside his party headquarters in Madrid, where cars blared their horns in the streets.

Voters handed the ruling Socialists their biggest defeat in history, chasing them from seven years in office in which an economic boom went bust and the unemployment rate shot to 21.5 per cent.

"The Socialist Party did not have a good result. We clearly lost the elections," the party's candidate for premier, 60-year-old Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba told his party faithful.

Spain's government was the last to fall among the eurozone's so-called periphery nations this year, after Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Italy all succumbed to a collapse of confidence in their sovereign debt.

With more than 97 per cent of the ballots counted, Rajoy's Popular Party had 44.57 per cent of the vote and an absolute majority of 186 seats in the 350-member Congress of Deputies.
The win gives Rajoy a free hand to ram through severe austerity measures in the eurozone's fourth biggest economy.

The Socialists won 28.67 per cent of the vote, giving them 110 seats, the partial count showed.

Though considered uncharismatic, Rajoy won support from voters lured by his promise to fix the economy and create jobs, even if it means more austerity.