POLITICAL ROUND UP BY MURIEL PILKINGTON – 25th February 2008

Campaign heats up

The Prime Minister apparently believes that a little bit of tension in the election campaign will galvanise Socialists and their sympathisers to go out and vote on the day but recent violent incidents against the Partido Popular (PP) and the new Union, Progress and Democracy Party (UP&D) just might inspire non-Socialists to vote in droves. As paraphrase an old saying goes, be careful what you wish for because it just might blow up in your face. There have been four cases of political violence in the past two weeks. On February 12th, the PP’s president in the Basque Country, María San Gil, was heckled and jostled by some two dozen students when she arrived at the Santiago de Compostela University to give a talk to Economics students. One of her bodyguards was slightly injured while trying to keep the crowd away from her. The youths in question belonged to a small Galician nationalist party. On the 18th, one of the PP’s candidates in Barcelona, Dolors Nadal, got the same treatment from some 50 “independentistas” – the new name for Catalan nationalists – when she visited the University there and the police had to escort her off the campus. The next day, the UP&D’s Rosa Diez was insulted by students belonging to the extreme Left when she entered and left the Complutense University in Madrid. Sra Diez was a Socialist MP at the European Parliament for several years but resigned in protest against José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s “peace process” with the Basque terrorist group ETA. She is a Basque. Together with several other prominent Basques, including the Socialist sympathiser, philosopher Fernando Savater, she founded the UP&D and is now in the process of turning it into a nationwide party. Last Friday, the 22nd, a group of Republicans and left-wingers insulted and jostled two PP leaders, Juan José Guemes and Francisco Granados, at the opening of a new hospital in Parla, on the outskirts of Madrid. The town’s Socialist mayor, Tomas Gomez, didn’t attend the event, after warning the two PP men that a “reception committee” was being prepared for them. Deputy Prime Minister María Teresa Fernández de la Vega said the government condemned the attacks as well as those people – the PP obviously – who “are trying to make the government responsible for them”. While the hecklers and jostlers were not Socialists, they all belong to parties allied with the government. Sr Zapatero would not have been able to form a government if he hadn’t allied himself with the Catalan Republican Left Party, ERC, and the Izquierda Unida (IU, United Left) a conglomeration of left-wing, Green and anarchists groups in which the Communists predominate. The Galician Nationalist Party helped the Socialist Party oust the PP out of power in Galicia at the last regional election there, and all the Basque nationalist parties feel so empowered by the PM’s talks with ETA that they’re acting as if the Basque Country was already independent from Spain. In the government’s belated attempt to try to put the genie back into the bottle, images of police escorting handcuffed ETA sympathisers out of buildings and pushing them into patrol cars – usually at night – are a daily staple on Spanish television news. In the past four years, Sr Zapatero has had to bend over backwards to keep his nationalist and far Left allies happy and it looks as if he’s going to have to do the same to win the next time around. This general election is now regarded as the closest one in the past 30 years and could end in a technical tie in which the party that can drum up the most allies will form a government. Having successfully isolated the PP in Parliament during the past four years, the Socialists will obviously be the winner, even if they get fewer votes and seats than the PP. So the majority of Spaniards will once again be without a government because Sr Zapatero will have to continue pandering to his minority allies. Despite having been overhead saying at the end of a TV interview that “tension” in the election campaign would be convenient for the Socialists, Sr Zapatero went ahead and started dramatising the campaign as soon as it officially opened at midnight last Thursday – the keywords being authoritarian and divisive, that being the sort of government Spaniards will get if they vote for the PP. Sr Zapatero, of course, is the most tolerant, most reasonable of men. Yet he has most unreasonably and most intolerantly refused to take into account the nearly ten million people who voted for the PP in March 2004. Between them, the Socialists and the PP obtained the votes of about 80% of the electorate who turned out four years ago. They deserve a government which includes them all and not one that leaves half of them out in the cold.

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