Voters' anger is brought home to Gonzalez: Elections in the Spanish PM's stronghold promise trouble, writes Phil Davison in Malaga

UNDER normal circumstances, the Spanish Prime Minister, Felipe Gonzalez, would be likely to survive the predicted hammering for his ruling Socialists in tomorrow's European vote. Unfortunately for Mr Gonzalez, he also faces the prospect of a historic setback in simultaneous regional elections in Andalusia, his home region and traditional stronghold.

Polls indicate his Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) will lose the European race to the conservative Popular Party (PP) for the first time in a nation-wide vote. Such outright defeat in Andalusia - one of Spain's 17 'semi-autonomous communities' - is unthinkable but the Socialists could lose their absolute majority in the Seville-based regional parliament for the first time since taking power in Spain in 1982.

The PSOE currently has 62 seats in the 109-seat Andalusian parliament, the PP 26 and the Communist-led United Left coalition (IU) 11. Polls suggest the PSOE could slip below the absolute majority of 55, losing votes to both the PP and IU. The latter's Communist leader, Julio Anguita, whose calm campaigning contrasted with the mutual abuse slung by the big two, may win over many disillusioned former PSOE voters who cannot bring themselves to vote for what they still consider the Francoist Right.

The extent of the PSOE's predicted twin-setback could force the embattled Prime Minister, his popularity at its lowest ebb as corruption cases have come uncomfortably close to his door, to dissolve parliament in the autumn and call a snap election. As a minimum, he is expected to clean out his cabinet, dumping the deputy Prime Minister, Narcis Serra, over a corruption scandal.

Tomorrow's regional vote is the first since Mr Gonzalez squeezed into a fourth term in general elections last June, without an absolute majority and forced to rely on highly- conditional support from the independence-minded Catalan nationalist coalition, Convergencia i Unio (CiU). The CiU leader, Jordi Pujol, has said he will continue his pragmatic support unless the European and Andalusian results are 'catastrophic' for the Socialists.

The leading Andalusian candidates, backed by their party leaders, wound up their campaigns in Seville last night, leaving today - under Spanish electoral law - as a campaign-free 'day of reflection'. It was one of the dirtiest campaigns in Spain's modern democratic history.

The PSOE deputy leader, Alfonso Guerra, exiled to relative obscurity since his 1991 resignation as deputy Prime Minister - his brother Juan had been running a business empire from a government building - was wheeled out to sling red roses at supporters and dirt at the PP. He accused the PP's candidate for the 'presidency' (regional prime minister) of Andalusia, Javier Arenas, of making money from contracts related to the Expo '92 exhibition in Seville while he was a member of the Spanish parliament. Mr Arenas demanded an apology, published documents showing he had severed links with private business when he became an MP and threatened legal action.

The PSOE also accused the PP of 'buying' peasants' votes for up to 5,000 pesetas (pounds 25) in the La Carolina area. The allegation was partly based on an inexplicably-taped telephone conversation in which one caller spoke of bribes and the other grunted as though trying to get his interlocutor off the phone line. The PP denied the charge and initiated legal action.

The PP said the 'vote-buying' charge was aimed at deflecting attention from two PSOE practices which have been highly criticised by the conservative and left-wing opposition. The first is the long-standing agricultural subsidy scheme - known as the Rural Employment Plan (PER) - under which agricultural day-labourers are guaranteed half a year's pay so long as they work two months. The opposition says the system encourages idleness and that, of the pounds 50m or so a year involved, much ends up in the wrong pockets. A landowner near Malaga was recently arrested for obtaining pounds 100,000 in PER subsidies by signing nearly 200 fictitious work contracts.

Secondly, the Socialists offered Andalusian housewives a week's free holiday, with their vote implicit in return. The move may have backfired. 'We want jobs for our husbands, so that we can go on holiday together,' said one outraged housewife.

(Photograph and map omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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 Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy