The ruling Socialist Party braced itself for stinging losses in regional and municipal elections Sunday amid unprecedented street protests that have caught the imagination of the nation.Protests have swept across Spain. Let's hope today the Socialists get swept out.
The elections are a key test of how much the party's support has crumbled due to soaring unemployment and its handling of the financial crisis, and are seen as a prelude to general elections next year.
More than 34 million people are eligible to vote while in the background a growing protest movement has illustrated the strong disillusionment felt by Spaniards toward both main parties and what they call a political system that favors economic interests over citizens.
"I call for, encourage and appeal for a responsible, big turnout in these May 22 regional and municipal elections in all of Spain," Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said as he emerged with his wife from casting his ballot.
Voter turnout by 2 p.m. stood at 35.9 percent, 1.7 percent higher than at the same time in similar elections in 2007, the electoral commission said.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
Polls indicate Zapatero's party could suffer the humiliation of losing historic Socialist strongholds.
The financial crisis has forced deep cuts and left Spain burdened with 21.3 percent unemployment, the highest of any nation using the Euro as its currency. The jobless rate among the young stands at 40 percent and a total of 4.9 million people are out of work in Spain, the highest number since 1997.
A large proportion of those in work earn just €1,000 ($1,400) or less per month.
Spain is forecasting limp growth of just 1.3 percent for itself in 2011, but even the Bank of Spain has rated that prediction as optimistic.
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