To take Spain first, the shift in power to the Socialist Party was entirely due to an increased turnout of voters. In 2000, about 21.5 million people voted in the Spanish elections. In 2004, 2.5 million more voted. The Socialist vote increased by 3 million, while the Conservative vote dropped by only 700,000. This was no massive swing away from the Partido Popular (PP) to the Socialists, but an effect of a small percentage of the population feeling motivated to vote when otherwise they would have not. In fact, it seems likely that the PP's vote actually firmed up, given that opinion polls before the Madrid bombings had the Socialists gaining on the PP even without the extra votes. By my calculations, on a turnout equivalent to 2000, the PP would have received about 300,000 fewer votes than it did.
Close to 40 percent of the Spanish people voted for the PP despite the attacks, despite the accusations of lies and despite the widespread unhappiness with Prime Minister Aznar's decisions on Iraq (90 percent opposition in some polls). It would be a clear mistake to say that the 43 percent of Spaniards who voted for the Socialist Party did so only because they wished Spain to leave the coalition of the willing and withdraw their troops from Iraq. In fact, it would not surprise me if polls found that more Spaniards now supported the Aznar stance on Iraq than previously, despite the election results.
It is clear, therefore, that the Spanish elections hinged on the feelings of those 3 million extra voters, less than a tenth of the voting population. They were, it appears, overwhelmingly young, something that in Europe at least invariably favors left-leaning parties. It seems likely that the PP's unwise move to pin the blame for the bombings on Basque separatist terrorists ETA before the evidence was in contributed to a feeling among this group that it had been lied to. The group's vengeance was terrible for Spain and the war on terror, but its effect was disproportionate.
Monday, March 22, 2004
Interesting analysis of the Spanish vote, by Iain Murray: