New parties reshuffle the deck in Spain
The success of the leftist Podemos party and the liberal Ciudadanos in Spain's local and regional elections on Sunday has shifted the political balance of power in Spain. If Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government doesn't radically change its course it stands to lose the general elections this autumn, some commentators warn. Others complain that voters were just punishing Rajoy for his reforms.
Rajoy punished for reforms
Although Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his conservative People's Party (PP) emerged from the election on Sunday as the strongest force with 26 percent of the vote, they fared worse than in the past 20 years. The fact that they were given such a thrashing shows what fate awaits courageous politicians who carry out unpopular reforms, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore laments: "The courage to be unpopular is a scarce commodity in Europe. Like [former German Chancellor] Gerhard Schröder, the Spanish prime minister may end up being the victim in the parliamentary elections in autumn, and have to watch how others reap the fruits of his reforms. The author of the most important post-war reform of the German social welfare system lost the 2005 election precisely because of that reform, the so-called Agenda 2010. The Rajoy government has taken a similar step. … If the PP is voted out of office in the autumn, Pablo Iglesias' boys can count themselves lucky: someone has already done the dirtiest and most difficult work for them."
Spain's government must change course
Since their election fiasco on Sunday several high-ranking regional politicians of the conservative People's Party (PP) have announced they are resigning to make way for the next generation. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy should also consider taking this step, the centre-left daily El País warns: "Even though his party lost 2.4 million votes in the elections Mariano Rajoy is determined to stick to his useless course after the May 24 elections. This stance will have consequences, as the mutiny in his own ranks is already making clear. … The political elite must reflect on whether it makes sense to oppose the calls for reform coming from Spain's most urban, populated and dynamic areas instead of dismissing new movements on the pretext that it's not worth worrying about parties created just 'half an hour ago'. If Rajoy persists with this course he should bear in mind that a driver can hardly avoid an accident just by closing his eyes."
New parties must show their mettle
After their success at the polls the protest parties Podemos and Ciudadanos will have to show that they really can - and want to - play a constructive role in Spanish politics, the conservative daily Financial Times comments: "They need to come to terms with the increasingly complex landscape of national politics. As Spain heads towards a potentially inconclusive general election, all parties - whether new or old - will have to show maturity in how they deal with one another. Podemos and Ciudadanos, as potential kingmakers, will ultimately have to decide whether they can be responsible parties of government or whether they are destined to be pure protest movements. ... The hope must be that Spain's political fragmentation does not produce stasis, undermining the valuable economic achievements we have seen."
Wrathful voters shouldn't be ignored
The established parties in Spain and Europe should not take the success of the protest parties lightly, the centre-left daily Le Monde advises: "The victory of Syriza in Greece, the collapse of Labour in Britain, the rise of the Front National in France and now that of Podemos in Spain go beyond the rejection of austerity. With different accents - and in this respect the Spanish system critics deserve credit for never ceding to the xenophobia of the FN or Ukip - they are all the expression of a strong current of resistance to our political systems. Clearly, Rajoy has chosen to ignore this current. Wrongly so. He and all the other European leaders would do well to take a good look at these polls of wrath."