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Al Jazeera

Spaniards To Continue Mass Action for at Least a Week


Protesters against the ongoing financial crisis, politicians and bankers take part in a demonstration and public assembly at Madrid's Puerta del Sol. The placard at center reads, "enough!".

Hundreds of demonstrators in Spain are planning to extend their protests against the Spanish government's austerity measures and the political parties that they blame for soaring unemployment.

A show-of-hands vote at a meeting in Madrid's central Puerta del Sol square, where demonstrators have erected a makeshift camp, saw protesters indicate that they planned to stay at least until May 29.

"We have decided to stay at least until Sunday at 12pm [10:00 GMT]," a protest organizer declared after the vote.

Tens of thousands of Spaniards have demonstrated in the past week in city squares across the country ahead of local and regional elections that are now under way.

The protesters have called on Spaniards to reject the Socialists and the center-right Popular Party, the two main political options in Spain.

But they are not expected to shift the outcome of the voting for 8,116 city councils and 13 out of 17 regional governments, where the center-right Popular Party is expected to make major gains at the expense of the ruling Socialists.

As Spaniards went to the polls on Sunday, protesters in Puerta del Sol square were cleaning up, handing out donated water and suncream to passers by and maintaining a "guerrilla garden" where they had dug out flowers to plant vegetables.

Unpopular policies

Polls show the Socialists could lose strongholds such as the Castilla-La Mancha region, where they have controlled the regional legislature for decades, and the city of Sevilla, where they have been in power for 12 years.

If forecasts hold true, the outcome will be a rebuke for Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister, who has been applauded abroad for his fiscal discipline during the euro zone crisis but is unpopular at home as the economy stagnates.

The elections are the first major vote since the government passed huge spending cuts and unpopular reforms.

The demonstrators are flouting a national ban on political protests on the eve of elections and the day of the vote.

Although Spain's electoral commission on Thursday declared that protests on Saturday and Sunday would be illegal, the government has not sent in police to enforce the ban, fearing violence after a week of peaceful protest.

"The government has not given such an [evacuation] order" and "this will continue provided that there are no riots or crimes," an interior ministry source said.

An estimated 30,000 were on Madrid's Puerta del Sol plaza on Saturday night and protesters also gathered in Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Bilbao and other cities.

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