Madrid: Spaniards on Sunday voted in rain-sodden
elections that were all but certain to hand a thundering
victory to the right and topple yet another debt-laden
Bowed by a 21.5 per cent jobless rate, economic
stagnation and deep spending cuts, the first voters of the 36
million-strong Spanish electorate headed to polls ready to
punish the ruling Socialists.
"Spain chooses a government to confront the crisis
storm," blared the front page of the leading centre-left daily
"Spain stakes its future," headlined the conservative
Opposition Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy has a lead
of about 15 percentage points over the Socialists, the latest
polls showed, enough for an absolute majority in parliament
and a free hand to reform.
Voters vented anger with the ruling Socialists over the
economic crisis that has pushed the number of unemployed close
to five million, but some were also wary of Rajoy, who has
promised even deeper spending cuts.
Octavio Arginano, a retired 67-year-old factory worker,
said he voted for the right for the first time in his life.
"My son has been unemployed for over a year, my daughter
earns just 600 euros ($800) a month looking after young
children," he said as he left a polling station in the Madrid
neighbourhood of Lavapies.
"There has to be a change although I am not sure anyone
knows what to do to get us out of this situation."
If the polls are right, Spain would become the last of
the so-called periphery eurozone nations to ditch its
government this year, after the debt crisis toppled rulers of
Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Italy.
The ruling party`s candidate, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba,
60, cast his vote in Madrid shortly after the polls opened and
urged Spaniards not to shun the polls.
"Spain is at a historic crossroads," he told reporters.
"The next four years are very important for our future and in
these conditions it is even more important that people vote."