Voters in Austerity-Gripped Spain Head to Polls for Historic Election

Podemos' Pablo Iglesias (center) goes to vote on Dec. 20, 2015. (Photo: Adolfo Lujan/flickr/cc)

Voters in Austerity-Gripped Spain Head to Polls for Historic Election

With anti-austerity Podemos party making great strides, 'Europe's rulers should take note.'

Voters in Spain began heading to the polls on Sunday for a national election that is expected to mark the end of the nation's long-standing two-party political system with the anti-austerity Podemos party helping to upend the status quo.

The Guardianreports that the outcome is "unpredictable," while Euronewssays that "only one thing is certain ... and that's how uncertain this ballot has turned out to be."

For his part, Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias said Sunday, "After tonight, I am sure the history of our country will change."

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The Guardian adds that the outcome "is expected to usher in a new era of coalitions and compromises at the national level."

Reuterslooks at how those could play out:

Opinion polls suggest the ruling conservative People's Party (PP) of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will win the vote but fall well short of an absolute majority.

The Socialists are expected to come second, while anti-austerity party Podemos ("We Can") and a second significant newcomer, the liberal Ciudadanos ("Citizens"), are vying for third place as kingmaker in post-election talks.

That prediction makes any of four outcomes possible - either a centre-right pact between the PP and Ciudadanos, a centre-left alliance between the Socialists and Podemos, a coalition between the Socialists and Ciudadanos or a minority administration.

The Associated Pressreports: "Days or weeks of negotiations may be needed to determine the outcome."

Still, Podemos supporter Owen Jones writes that the election is making an important statement about the anti-austerity movement, and that "Europe's rulers should take note."

"Outside Spain," the Wall Street Journalreports, "the election has been closely watched as a test of whether the kind of austerity measures Mr. Rajoy applied while halting the country's slide toward insolvency are politically survivable."

A new paper from the Washington, DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) finds that the emerging recovery in the country is not due to austerity measures. "The idea that austerity brought about recovery by increasing investor confidence seems to be no more true in Spain than anywhere else," stated Mark Weisbrot, CEPR Co-Director and co-author of the paper.

"A strategy of fiscal stimulus and public investment, combined with revenue increases that maintain a sustainable debt burden, present a much more effective alternative," the paper states.

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