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Spain's fractured political landscape in focus as Andalusia votes

Source: Reuters - Sun 22th Mar 2015
Spain's fractured political landscape in focus as Andalusia votes

Spain's two new political newcomers are facing their first real test in Sunday's election in Andalusia as they challenge the established parties following a profound economic and political crisis.

The vote is a forerunner to a national election later this year and comes against a backdrop of economic recovery which has done little to whittle down unemployment.

In Spain's most populous and largely agricultural region, about 6.5 million Andalusians, one fifth of the national electorate, will for the first time be able to vote for two new parties: Podemos and Ciudadanos.

The Podemos ("We Can") party offers leftist alternatives to the established parties, like Greece's Syriza, while Ciudadanos (Citizens) has taken a more conservative stance and could end up becoming king-maker later this year.

The two upstarts have capitalised on discontent with the older parties, which are seen as holding back change to protect vested interests.

The newcomers' campaigns have focussed on corruption within the Socialist party, which runs the regional administration, and the People's Party (PP) in power nationally. They have also attacked the ineffectiveness of the established parties in dealing with rising poverty and inequality.

In Andalusia, famous for its olive groves and sunny beaches, more than one in three are unemployed, above the national average of one in four.

Turnout is expected to be stronger than at the last regional ballot in 2012, and at 1300 GMT it was almost 5 percentage points higher at nearly 34%.

The PSOE and the PP, who have dominated politics for decades, have focused on the dangers of newly-minted politicians and of making electoral promises that cannot be kept.

The Socialists, in power in Andalusia for more than three decades, are expected to win the vote by a slim margin having successfully leveraged discontent with the PP government ruling in Madrid.

As for the PP, it has been keen to draw comparisons between Podemos and Greece's Syriza government, now locked in thorny negotiations over euro zone financing and having promised to tackle poverty resulting from austerity.

José Manuel Ramos, a 50-year-old unemployed waiter evicted from his home a year ago and now living in a hostel, said he would vote for Podemos after voting for the PP last time around.

"I think (Podemos) are different, although we'll have to wait and see because they are new. At the end of the day (politicians) are all dogs of the same breed, but at least (Podemos) have generated hopes of something different."

The PP's support may even halve versus 2012, polls show.

There is unlikely to be an outright majority, however, so the election could produce cross-party pacts, another possible taste of what may happen on a national scale by the end of the year.

Recommended Reading :

* Spain General Election Poll shows 4 Parties practically tied

* Spain's ruling PP tops election poll, Podemos pips PSOE

Comment on this Story

 
It would have been nice as an "extrajanero" with a 10 year old business, paying taxes and employing 6 spanish staff, if I have the opportunity to vote!!
Simon - Mon, 23rd Mar 2015