Spain’s Governing Party Suffers Heavy Losses

By Raphael Minder

Thousands of protesters gathered Sunday for an eighth consecutive day in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid as well as the main squares in other cities to demand political reforms in Spain.

The governing Socialist Party suffered heavy losses on Sunday in regional and municipal elections, even as tens of thousands of Spaniards calling themselves the “indignant” said they would pursue their protests to force an overhaul of the country’s political system.

Conceding defeat on Sunday night, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said that his Socialist Party had been understandably punished by voters for overseeing an economic crisis that had left Spain with a 21 percent jobless rate, more than twice the European average.

“These results are very clearly related to the effects of the economic crisis that we have been suffering for almost three years,” Mr. Zapatero said in a televised address. “Almost two million jobs have been destroyed and I know that a lot of Spaniards are facing serious problems. Today, without a doubt, they have expressed their discomfort.”

Meanwhile, underscoring how they have unexpectedly seized the initiative from established political parties, trade unions and other institutions, thousands of protesters gathered Sunday for an eighth consecutive day in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid as well as the main squares in other cities.

The youth-led movement, the first to manifest in any meaningful way since austerity began to bite in Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, has caught Spain’s traditional politicians flat-footed. At the same time, some of the campaign’s participants have been struggling to come to terms with their own success and grappling with the need to give more coherence to their wide-ranging grievances in order to keep their campaign alive beyond the election.

The demonstrators, who insist that they have no party affiliation, want a more representative democratic system and are demanding an end to political corruption. Their anger toward established parties has been fueled by the debt crisis and the surge in joblessness, but their grievances also include a call for a cut in military spending, the closing of nuclear power plants and the end of some laws, like recent legislation aimed at punishing digital piracy. Read more…

Learn more about the 15-M movement.

As published in www.nytimes.com on May 22, 2011 (a version of this article appeared in print on May 23, 2011, on page A9 of the New York edition with the headline: Amid Protests, Spain’s Governing Party Loses in Regions).


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