PSOE/PSC have been declared the winner of the Spanish elections. In his first public appearance tonight, Zapatero started off by naming all victims of ETA terrorism during his previous four year’s of government. Some will claim that the murder of socialist Carrasco two days ago swung the vote, but I do not believe so.
In my eyes, conservative PP has done a poor job in opposition. They have not focused on the vulnerability of the Spanish economy and labour market, but have spent all energy on family values (anti-gay, anti-abortion) and an unrealistic project of a united Spain, disregarding the strength of many of the regions. Officially, PP considers it a victory to have increased their number of seats in the parliament (from 148 to 154), but since their objective was to form the new government, that statement is not very credible. Party leader Rajoy will most likely be forced to step down within shortly.
When translated into seats of the parliament, it becomes obvious the PSOE owes their success to their Catalan branch PSC and campaign leader Carme Chacón. In the new parliament, four of the five new seats for the socialist government (from 164 to 169) come from here. In spite of her pregnancy, Chacón has been highly active throughout the campaign and managed to win voters from all other parties, in all Catalan provinces (PP in Barcelona being the only exception).
The elections 2008 have seen a strong tendency towards a bi-polarisation of Spanish politics – in most provinces only PSOE and PP are strong enough to win seats. With that in mind, it is understandable that Catalan CiU declares it a victory to have maintained their 10 seats in the parliament. This means that CiU holds the balance - they are the only political party which alone can offer Zapatero a stable majority. Tonight, top candidate Duran i Lleida did not want to talk about it and instead underlined that everybody knows what his party stands for: "They will respect Catalonia" (Respectaràn Catalunya), was CiU's main election slogan.
In her speech, Carme Chacón said: “Many thanks, Catalonia. From all of my heart” (“Moltes gracies, Catalunya, de tot cor”). She knows where the new socialist votes come from. So far, Zapatero has not revealed the same gratefulness to this part of Spain. However, the game has only begun and, personally, I believe that the PSOE/PSC government would benefit from seeking CiU's support.
The coming four years will not be easy, neither for Spain, nor for the new government. But if Catalan politicians play their cards well, these can be relatively good years for Catalonia.