Leading article: A victory for moderation

Share
Related Topics

For once the opinion polls got it right. Despite a bout of last-minute nerves, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and his Socialist party have gained a second term with a slightly increased representation in the Spanish parliament, although still just short of an absolute majority. That must be good for Spain. Although the government of Mr Zapatero has pushed bravely on with policies of social concern and secular liberalism, most notably on gay marriage, there was always the charge that they had somehow gained power by accident because of the peculiar circumstances of the 2004 Madrid bombings in which the last election had been held. If the government was to proceed with its policies then it needed the authority of a popular mandate.

It was a bitter and often nasty campaign in which the right of the Popular Party exploited every issue, from immigration to marriage, to attack the prime minister. It failed to get its man. In two other ways, as well, Spain's election is of clear benefit to the country. One is in its dealings with Europe. Although Mr Zapatero was quick to fulfil his promise of withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq, on more general foreign policy, and particularly in his dealings with Europe, he has had been notably less forthcoming. With a clear mandate and four years in office, Spain can now play a more active role in the EU at a time when French, German and British leadership are all faltering on the issue. At the same time, the election marked a clear and possibly decisive vote in favour of the moderate nationalist parties at the expense of the extremes. Against all the fears of those who were predicting an imminent break-up of the country, voters in the Basque country and Catalonia voted for parties committed to working within the system – a lesson for other European countries, including Britain. At this stage Mr Zapatero is unlikely to seek a coalition with any of the smaller parties, preferring to seek support on an ad hoc basis. But he is likely to work with the mainstream nationalists, meaning moderation will be rewarded. Yet there is need for caution in applauding Zapatero's victory.

The result still leaves Spain a sharply divided country. If the Socialists gained five seats, so did the Popular Party. Both improved their share of the vote. Immigration remains a fraught issue. The bishops may be down but they are still far from out and the Madrid government is facing an economic downturn.

Mr Zapatero spoke yesterday of inaugurating a new era in Spanish politics and seeking national unity after the divisiveness of the campaign. These are fine intentions, but, with a recession in the offing and a fiercely divided electorate, fulfilling them may not prove such a straightforward task.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Preventable deaths included accidents, suicide, deliberately-inflicted injury, abuse or neglect, and acute medical conditions  

A flu pandemic could decide next year’s election

Matthew Norman
J. Jayalalithaa gestures to her party supporters while standing on the balcony of her residence in Chennai. Former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is one of India's most colourful and controversial politicians  

The jailing of former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is a drama even Bollywood couldn’t produce

Andrew Buncombe
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style