Spain's ruling Socialists suffered a crushing defeat to conservatives in local and regional elections Sunday, yielding power even in traditional strongholds against a backdrop of staggering unemployment and unprecedented sit-ins by Spaniards furious with what they see as politicians who don't care about their plight.
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said the result was due punishment of his government for the state of the economy -- the jobless rate is a eurozone high of 21.3 percent. But he said he had no plans to move up general elections, which must be held by March of next year, and pledged to press on with job-creating reforms despite the loud outcry of opposition to his party.
The win for the conservative opposition Popular Party 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 stunning: the conservative Popular Party won at the municipal level by about two million votes, compared to 150,000 in its win in 2007, and in 13 regional governments that were up for grabs, Zapatero's party lost in virtually all of them.
One was Castilla-La Mancha in central Spain, where the Socialists have always held power. The Socialists also lost bastions like the town halls in Barcelona and Seville. The conservatives padded their majorities in Madrid and Valencia, in the latter even though the president is under investigation for corruption. Several other Socialist-controlled regional governments also fell. Spain's electoral map turned largely blue -- the color of the Popular Party.
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