Zapatero wins second term with tiny majority

Spain's socialist Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, squeaked through for a second term in general elections yesterday with a wafer-thin majority closely matching predictions and his victory four years ago.

With 97 per cent of votes counted last night, the Socialists won 169 seats, 44 per cent, and the PP 154 seats, 40 per cent. The result polarised Spain into, in effect, a two-party system, with an unprecedented marginalisation of smaller parties.

"Thank you, thank you for giving this clear victory for the Socialist Party. We've worked hard. It was worth it," Mr Zapatero told ecstatic supporters outside Socialist Party headquarters in Madrid. "Four years ago you told me not to fail you. I never forgot that."

Mr Zapatero said he had received congratulations from his conservative rival, Mariano Rajoy. "I want to thank Mariano Rajoy. He has earned my respect. Spaniards have ... opened a new stage, without tension or confrontation. I will consolidate the things we've done well, and correct mistakes," he promised.

The conservative Popular Party spokesman, Pio Escudero, conceded defeat with some 20 per cent of the vote still uncounted. "I want to congratulate the Socialist Party ... It seems that their victory is clear. But that the PP has achieved a great improvement in the number of votes and seats."

The victory was much narrower than socialists had hoped, and leaves Mr Zapatero well short of the absolute majority of 176 seats he craved. It barely liberates him from having to make pacts with smaller parties. The victory amounts to an endorsement of his record reforms, and of conceding more powers to Spain's autonomous regions.

For Mr Rajoy, the second consecutive defeat marks a crushing setback and is likely to increase pressure on him to quit as party chief.

With the marginalisation of fringe parties, the results have produced what a disappointed leader of the United Left party Gaspar Llamazares called "a tsunami of bi-party-ism". Conservative regional nationalist parties including Catalonia's Convergence and Union and the Basque nationalists party held up however, with 10 and six seats respectively. The Galician Nationalist Bloc kept its two seats.

But support for radical nationalist groupings in Catalonia and the Basque Country crumbled. The pro-independence Catalan Republican Left slumped from eight to three seats. The pro-communist United Left (IU) dropped from five to two seats. Conservative regional parties in Aragon and Navarra also lost seats.

Socialists started celebrating at party headquarters in Madrid soon after polls closed, and within an hour the street outside was jammed with euphoric supporters. "Zapatero, you didn't fail us," they chanted. The mood cooled as the gap narrowed but renewed to give Mr Zapatero a rapturous reception.

Jubilation dispelled the grief that had overshadowed the elections since the shooting of a former Socialist councillor in the Basque country on Friday. The bursting of Eta gunmen upon the scene brought terrorist violence to the top of the political agenda, and is thought to have spurred Spaniards to a high turnout. The general election coincided with regional elections in Andalucia, in which Socialists retained their fourth successive absolute majority.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Kellie Bright as Linda Carter and Danny Dyer as Mick Carter

EastEnders Christmas specials are known for their shouty, over-the-top soap drama but tonight the show has done itself proud thanks to Danny Dyer.

Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Sport
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy
tvCall the Midwife Christmas Special
Sport
Laura Trott and Jason Kenny are preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tv
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: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there