Spanish PM urges unity in face of conservative gains

Spain's elections have produced two big political forces each with conflicting visions of the world, presenting the Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, with an uneasy ride as he faces the problems of a flagging economy, a resurgent terrorist threat and a militant Catholic Church.

His victorious Socialists face a conservative opposition that also strengthened its vote as smaller parties crumpled. Confronted by sharply defined alternatives of right and left, Spaniards defied a sustained conservative onslaught to back Mr Zapatero with the largest vote the Socialists have ever received, enabling him to govern for another four years.

Yesterday he displayed all his famed charm and optimism as he braced the country for rough times. "With more votes and more seats, we have to govern better, with more humility, and strengthen our capacity for dialogue," a smiling Mr Zapatero said. He hoped for "a new era without tension or confrontation".

Voters gave Mr Zapatero a clear mandate to continue his programme of progressive social reform, promising to govern for the poor, women and the young, adding to his laws on gay marriage, sexual equality and easier divorce. He won 169 seats, five more than last time. But without the absolute majority of 176, he lacks the freedom of action he craved.

Dialogue with the opposition Popular Party might be tricky. This was the second successive defeat for the conservative PP led by Mariano Rajoy, barely redeemed by an increase in seats, up five to 153. Mr Rajoy's weary "adios" on the balcony of party headquarters signalled he may soon be on the way out. Rivals are reportedly jostling to replace him. Those angling to step into his shoes seem unsympathetic to the dialogue that the Socialist leader seeks, even though the PP is expected to undergo a profound rethink.

Mr Zapatero still needs support from smaller parties. "There are a number of parties we can speak to," he said yesterday. "Obviously we're going to be talking to all of them." But he dismissed as "premature" talk of possible pacts. With a reinforced parliamentary position he may opt for informal ad hoc deals.

Both the Basque Nationalist Party and the Catalan Convergence and Union, who won six and 11 seats each, want a share in government. Each represents a moderate nationalism compatible with Mr Zapatero's vision of Spain as a plurality of national identities. Fringe parties urging Catalan or Basque independence crumbled, silencing conservative predictions that Spain was in the process of breaking up.

Combating Eta terrorism has returned as a top priority, following the murder on Friday of a Socialist former councillor, an attack that threw the campaign into turmoil and propelled large numbers of voters to the polls. Mr Zapatero is expected to stick to the hard line against Eta armed separatists that he adopted after his high-risk attempt to resolve the Basque conflict by talks collapsed. But he says he doesn't regret taking the risk. Mr Zapatero is renowned for taking risks, and for scenting victory. He opted to lead the Socialists in 2000 as an outsider without support among party barons, and restored optimism to a party crushed by a second election defeat. He predicted victory in 2004 long before the 11 March train bombings propelled voters in his favour. And two weeks ago, neck and neck with the PP, he dispelled Socialists' gloom by promising that all would be well.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum