Sunday 24 September 2017

Reform fears as conservatives set for landslide win in Spain

Fiona Govan in Campillo de Ranas

SPAIN'S conservatives are poised to sweep to power tomorrow on the back of economic turmoil, causing fears the vote could turn back the clock on seven years of reforms that have made the country one of the most liberal in Europe.

Polls predict a landslide win for Mariano Rajoy's Popular Party (PP) after a week that has seen Spain's borrowing costs soar to record levels, raising concerns that the country could become the next victim of Europe's debt crisis.

Economic woes have dominated the campaign with the likely new leader pledging to restore the confidence of jittery financial markets and boost business -- but little has been said of what other changes are afoot.

The Socialists are being punished for their handling of the economic crisis that saw Spain lurch from boom to bust and unemployment rise to 22pc -- twice the EU average. The crisis overshadowed the social reforms that have transformed the predominantly Catholic country.

Since coming to power in 2004, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has enacted radical changes that would once have been unthinkable in Spain, such as legalising gay marriage, relaxing divorce laws and reforming the abortion law.

In Campillo de Ranas, a hamlet in the Ocejon valley 80 miles north of Madrid, its community is concerned about what the future may bring under the new conservative government.

The picturesque hamlet holds Spain's record for the number of gay weddings since the Socialists made them legal in 2005.

Francisco Morato, the Socialist mayor, has reversed the fortunes of the community by welcoming gay marriages and bringing a much-needed boost to the local economy, but he fears the good times are over.

Appeal

"I get the feeling that there is a lot of concern," said Mr Morato. "I have been holding marriages every weekend -- sometimes as many as three weddings in one day -- I simply haven't stopped.

"A lot of people tell me they fear that Mariano Rajoy will revoke the law, so there has been a rush to go ahead with their weddings before it is too late."

Some 20,000 homosexual couples have married since the law, which also allows gay couples to adopt children. Spain was the third member of the EU to allow same-sex weddings. But the PP lodged an appeal against the law with the constitutional court and has also been outspoken against abortion on demand.

Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba (60), a veteran politician who stepped up as the Socialist prime ministerial candidate when Mr Zapatero announced he would not seek a third term, has resigned himself to losing. He trails his opponent by 20pc in polls (48pc to 28pc).

In the final days of campaigning, his strategy centred on limiting the damage and preventing the PP taking an absolute majority in the 350-seat parliament.

"I'm worried that the right takes over with absolute power," he said in an interview with 'El Pais' newspaper. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

EURO IN CRISIS: SEE BUSINESS

Irish Independent

Editors Choice

Also in World News