The conservative Popular Party, or PP, won an absolute majority in Spain’s general elections on Sunday, according to the official vote count, which - with 99 percent of the ballots tallied - gave the party 186 seats in Parliament, its best achievement ever, versus 110 for the governing Socialist Party, or PSOE, a loss of 59 seats for the latter that dealt it a harsh defeat.
The election result - coming amid a severe economic crisis - is the worst ever obtained by the Socialists during Spain’s democracy after the Francisco Franco dictatorship.
The PP will hold a strong majority in both houses of Parliament - with 136 senators, compared to just 48 for the PSOE - and the center-right party also garnered majorities in the country’s autonomous communities, except for Catalonia, the Basque Country, Asturias and Andalusia.
The Catalonian nationalists of the Convergencia i Unio (CiU), the country’s third-largest political force, won 16 seats in the lower house, and the United Left coalition - which currently has two seats jumped to 11, according to the vote count figures.
Also, the independence-minded leftist Basque coalition Amaiur, created specifically to field candidates in these elections, managed to secure 7 seats in Parliament, whereas the Basque Nationalist Party, or PNV, won 5 seats in the lower house.
Several minor regional parties garnered between 1 and 4 seats each, and the overall result of the election is that the new Parliament will be substantially more fragmented than the current one.
Voter participation in the balloting was initially calculated at 69.39 percent, below the 73.85 percent registered in the 2008 election.
PP supporters gathered at the party’s Madrid headquarters to celebrate the resounding electoral victory, dancing to music broadcast by the organization, waving flags and awaiting the appearance of party leader - and the man who will become Spain’s new prime minister - Mariano Rajoy.
In his first remarks to the public after the PP victory became clear, Rajoy said that the win was, for him, “an immense honor and an enormous responsibility” at a “decisive moment” for the country.
He added: “I will govern in the service of Spain and the Spaniards. Nobody has to feel any unease; there will be no enemies for me other than unemployment, the deficit, the debt and economic stagnation.”
Rajoy went on to say that Spain “will stop being a problem and return to being part of the solution,” although he warned that “there are not going to be any miracles, (but) when things are done well the results come.”
The jubilant scene at and around the PP offices was a far cry from the subdued and sad mood that prevailed at the PSOE headquarters elsewhere in the capital.
The PSOE candidate for premier, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, acknowledged his party’s defeat saying that “we have clearly lost the elections” and adding that he would immediately ask the current primer minister and head of the PSOE, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, to convene a congress at which the party’s future will be decided.
He said despite the poor election result, the PSOE would continue to “defend universal public services, the equality between men and women and civil rights and freedoms.”
And the country’s current development minister and spokesman for the Socialist government, Jose Blanco, told reporters that he had called Rajoy to congratulate him on his victory.
The PP win had been forecast by all the pre-election surveys after the sharp loss in public confidence in Zapatero’s administration amid 21 percent unemployment and recent economic adjustments to cope with the economic crisis, including pay cuts for government officials and a freeze on pensions.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, U.S. Ambassador to Spain Alan Solomont, as well as numerous other world leaders, all congratulated Rajoy on the PP victory.
Zapatero had called for early general elections in the face of mounting political pressure due to the faltering economy, and the vote was held four months before the originally scheduled date.
Polls ahead of the elections showed widespread dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of the economy and predicted a landslide victory for the PP.
Nearly 36 million people, or 700,000 more than in the 2008 balloting, were eligible to vote for the 350 lower-house lawmakers and 208 senators. About 1.48 million citizens living abroad were also eligible to vote, election officials said.
The polls opened at 9:00 a.m. and closed at 8:00 p.m., with election precincts in the Canary Islands closing an hour later.
About 100,000 police and other security forces members were deployed across the country to maintain order.