23 May 2011

Spain’s protesters: ‘It’s Monday and still no jobs’

As Spain’s ruling Socialist Party suffers humiliating defeat in local elections, protesters in cities across the country tell Channel 4 News that demos will continue and grow.

Spanish protestrers camp out in the streets. (Reuters)

The right-of-centre People’s Party (PP) swept to wins in most of Spain’s decentralised regions in regional and local elections on Sunday. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s Socialist Party suffered its worst defeat in 30 years.

As a result, it is now unclear whether Mr Zapatero will be able to cling to power until the general election next March, although he has vowed not to call an early poll, and the opposition do not have enough seats to force him to do so.

The elections came against a backdrop of protests against unemployment – now 4.9 million and the highest in the eurozone at 21 per cent – in up to 100 cities and towns around the country.

The demonstrations have been the the largest since Spain’s property bubble burst in 2008 and sank the country into a recession.

But following polling over the weekend, protesters reiterated claims that rallies would continue because they are intended neither as a show of opposition to Mr Zapatero nor of support for Mariano Rajoy’s PP.

‘What else have I to do?’

Alberto, a recently unemployed social worker in Valencia, told Channel 4 News: “It is Monday and I still have no job. Nor is one on the horizon.”

He pledged that activists in Valencia and protesters elsewhere would not stop until their message of disillusionment “was heard across Europe and the world.”

It is Monday and I still have no job. Nor is one on the horizon

He said: “It is important to continue this movement for two main reasons. To show that this has nothing to do with Zapatero or the PP, but with the system itself, and to stop them from using this movement as political ammunition. And to… show that just because the video cameras have gone, it doesn’t mean that the problems have too.”

“Besides,” he added, “what else have I to do?”

Alicia, an uemployed psychologist protesting in Puerta del Sol, Madrid’s main square, which demonstrators there are likening to Tahrir Square in Egypt, echoed the vow to continue campaigning in the streets.

“The demonstrations are set to continue and the assemblies are going to be organised in each district now so that the movement reaches out to people in the outskirts,” she told Channel 4 News.

“There is still hope for change. We couldn’t expect an impact after just one week… We have laid the foundations for the future, and that’s got to mean something.”

Two years of recession

The largely peaceful protests on Saturday came despite a government ban on gatherings the day before an election.

Mr Zapatero said the result on Sunday was due punishment of his government for the state of the economy.

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The win for the right-of-centre PP puts it in even a stronger position to win the general elections and return to power after eight years of Socialist rule.

In what Spanish media said was the worst performance on record by the Socialist Party in local and regional elections, the numbers reflecting the loss were telling. The PP won at the municipal level by about 2 million votes, compared to 150,000 in its win in 2007. Mr Zapatera’s party lost virtually all of the 13 regional governments up for grabs.

Mr Zapatero attributed the results to the state of the economy, which is struggling to shake off nearly two years of recession, and conceded many Spanish families are suffering.

But he did not mention snowballing protest rallies.

“The youth nowadays think that there is a big difference between their requests, their movement, and the electoral world,” Miguel Martin, member of ATTAC (Association to Control Economic Transactions to Help Citizens) said.