Cablegate: Spain: Election Update February 1

DE RUEHMD #0105/01 0350736
R 040736Z FEB 08





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) Summary: This cable continues our effort, started
with ref a, to provide the flavor of the Spanish general
election campaign. Politicians and pundits have said
repeatedly the three key issues on March 9 will be the
economy, terrorism, and regional autonomy. Events in the
last two weeks have kept all three in the news. End summary.


2. (U) The plunge in the Spanish stock market (ref b) was bad
news for investors, but it may have helped Popular Party (PP)
candidate Mariano Rajoy with his message that he is better
able to manage the economy than Spanish Socialist Workers,
Party (PSOE) candidate Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. The
PSOE has blamed the economic problems on events beyond its
control, principally in the U.S. and the rise of
international oil prices.


3. (U) In the unlikely event anyone in Spain had forgotten
the stakes, the January 19 arrests in Barcelona of suspected
jihadists (ref c) was a sober reminder. Predictably,
journalists supportive of the PSOE saw a law enforcement
success where PP supporters saw a lack of interagency
coordination hampering the effort.

4. (U) The Fourth International Congress of Victims of
Terrorism was held in Madrid January 22-23. Although the
event was formally launched by the Prince of Asturias with a
call for "unity and firmness" in the face of terror, it took
on partisan overtones. Despite being a member of the
Congress,s "Committee of Honor," Zapatero did not attend.
Instead, the government was represented at the secretary of
state level. Some Spanish terrorism victims, associations
also reportedly stayed away because the event had become

5. (U) The PP, including Rajoy, turned out in force. Echoing
a Rajoy campaign theme, a number of participants strongly
criticized Zapatero for his attempts to negotiate with ETA.
Former President Aznar spoke, saying some had stayed away
from the event due to "an overabundance of arrogance and a
lack of courage, an overabundance of partisanship and a lack
of talent." Aznar also said Zapatero had admitted lying
about continuing negotiations with ETA following the December
2006 Barajas Airport bombing (ref a).

6. (U) For its part, the government is publicly supporting
Judge Baltasar Garzon,s efforts to ban two Basque political
parties because of ties to ETA. The parties are the Basque
National Action (ANV) and the Communist Party of the Basque
Lands (PCTV). Another party (Batasuna) was banned
previously. On January 22, First Vice President Maria Teresa
Fernandez de la Vega said "he who breaks the law pays for
it." The PP also supports the action against ANV and PCTV,
but complains the government should have moved sooner.

Regional Autonomy

7. (U) On January 20 Rajoy said if he elected he would make
Spanish the language of instruction in schools throughout
Spain. Unsurprisingly, this stance proved unpopular with
Catalan politicians, who were quick to accuse the PP of
playing politics with a volatile issue. It certainly will
not make Rajoy,s job any easier should he be in the position
of trying to pull together a coalition post-March 9, a point
made publicly by the Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, leader of
the principal Catalan political group, CIU.

8. (U) Catalan socialists may have given Rajoy some
inadvertent help January 21 by proposing that Catalonia be
given more favorable treatment when it comes to distribution
of government finances. What they see as disproportionate
revenue sharing from the central government to the Catalan
and Basque regional governments is a sore point for Spaniards
from other regions.

Gallardon Saga

9. (U) Although the stock market gyrations helped push it off
the front page, the story of Madrid Mayor Alberto

MADRID 00000105 002 OF 004

Ruiz-Gallardon (ref a) is not dead. Speculation continued
over whether Gallardon will leave office, leave politics, or
just leave the PP after March 9 (or none of the above). He
has supposedly skipped some PP public events, although he and
PP rival Esperanza Aguirre (President of the Autonomous
Community of Madrid) were on stage together at the Fourth
International Congress of Victims of Terrorism. PP founder
and grand old man (and vocal Gallardon supporter) Manuel
Fraga has appealed for unity. The PSOE has continued to use
the issue to paint the PP as radical right (Gallardon is a
centrist). Media sympathetic to the PSOE reported that
Aguirre stalked out of a January 29 business awards dinner
when she realized Gallardon was presenting the grand prize
(supposedly after trying unsuccessfully to convince the hosts
to let her hand out the award).

Foreign Policy

10. (U) Center right newspaper El Mundo echoed a PP campaign
theme (that Spain has lost international prestige under the
PSOE) with a January 30 front page showing on one side the
leaders of France, Germany, Italy, the UK, and the EU
gathered to discuss the European economy and on the other
side Zapatero meeting with the visiting President of Yemen.
The caption made stinging mention of Zapatero,s claim last
September that Spain played in the "champions, league" of
the world economy. Also on January 30, Rajoy joined French
President Sarkozy and German Chancellor Merkel in Paris for
an event organized by Sarkozy's party to discuss the future
of the EU. The conservative Spanish press reported gleefully
that Sarkozy had wished him great success in the campaign
while Merkel predicted the PP would return to government
"something she wanted and supported with all her heart."
Rajoy also scored a photo of the three of them holding hands.
El Mundo juxtaposed that picture on its front page with one
of Zapatero at a campaign event with his around a young man
with a spectacular mohawk haircut. The conservative press
noted Rajoy was being briefed by Sarkozy and Merkel on the
results of the European leaders economic meeting before
Zapatero. Merkel traveled to Palma de Mallorca January 31
for a Germany-Spain summit where in a joint press conference
with Zapatero she said one must accept that Zapatero's heart
beat for the Social Democrats in Germany and she feels closer
to the PP. Zapatero for his part said he was sure Merkel
agreed that the best for Spain was whatever the Spanish
voters decided. There is payback here. Zapatero made no
secret of his preference for Sarkozy's socialist opponent in

the French elections, and he once referred to Merkel's
electoral performance as a failure. Perhaps Merkel also
recalls Zapatero's role in blocking a German company's
attempt to acquire Spanish electric utility Endesa.

11. (U) Although the U.S. has not become an electoral issue,
there have been occasional nods in our direction. On January
21 PSOE foreign policy secretary Elena Valenciano criticized
U.S. detentions at Bagram and Guantanamo. On January 19,
Zapatero shrugged off questions about the Spanish economy
with a comment about the failure of U.S. "neoconservative"
economic recipes.

A Chicken in Every Pot

12. (U) We will report more fully on the party platforms and
their ramifications via septel, but the following gives an
idea of what the candidates are offering voters. Zapatero
has promised:
- a 400 euro tax rebate;
- 300,000 new day care spaces;
- a 200 euro increase in the minimum wage;
- a 200 euro increase in pensions;
- a reduction in the inheritance tax
- 1.5 million more housing units;
- 5 billion euros for additional commuter train lines for
- closing and not replacing nuclear power plants as they
reach the end of their service life;
- creation of congressional seats to represent the 1.5
million Spaniards living outside Spain (presently their votes
are counted in the provinces where they are listed in the
- four weeks paternity leave for same sex couples; and
- a constitutional reform to allow a female to inherit the

Rajoy has promised:
- an income tax exemption for those making less than 16,000
euros a year;
- 2.2 million jobs

MADRID 00000105 003 OF 004

- 400,000 new day care spaces;
- a reduction in unemployment to 6.5 percent by the end of
- 3.8 percent annual growth;
- an increase in the budget surplus to three percent by 2011;
- a 150 euro pension hike; and
- lower taxes for businesses and working women.
- a change in the name of the "Law of Homosexual Marriages"
to make clear the unions are not marriages.

13. (U) Zapatero was quick to accuse the PP of opposing equal
rights for women when the Constitutional Tribunal on January
29 rejected a PP challenge to a law which guarantees gender
parity on the parties' electoral lists. Although the law is
on its face gender neutral, its purpose was to get more women
into politics. There could be an interesting sequel to this.
On March 8, the day before the election, campaigning is
banned. This is to allow a national day of reflection before
the vote. However, March 8 also happens to be International
Women's Day. It would not take much imagination for the PSOE
to use the PP's opposition to the gender parity law to turn
the Women's Day rallies into pseudo-campaign events.

Catholic Church

14. (U) The controversy between the Catholic bishops and the
PSOE reported in ref a continues. On January 30 the
Permanent Commission of the Spanish Episcopal Conference
released a letter which, while not naming parties, left
little doubt about the bishops' sympathies. Urging voters to
take moral issues in account, the bishops referred directly
or indirectly to same-sex marriage, abortion, divorce
express, civic education oriented towards secularism, and
negotiations with terrorist groups (meaning ETA). The PSOE
responded with a press release noting all organizations had
the right to express their political preferences. They noted
the bishops and the PP had spent the entire previous
legislature protesting civil rights laws passed by congress.
The PSOE said it was immoral and hypocritical for the bishops
and the PP to use terrorism as a campaign issue. The PSOE
noted every Spanish president since the democratic transition
had talked to ETA, adding that Aznar had done so using a
bishop as intermediary.


15. (U) The PSOE has reportedly contracted the advertising
agency Sra. Rushmore, the same company that handles the
Coca-Cola campaign in Spain. Meanwhile, Rajoy is getting
image advice from Spaniard Antonio Sola, who also advised
Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

16. (U) Working the suggestion that the PP is the party of
negativity and confrontation, the PSOE has come out with a TV
spot featuring a character gratuitously delivering bad news
and unwanted predictions (e.g., telling patrons waiting to
enter a movie theater that the protagonist dies at the end or
telling a man waiting to see a doctor that surely he has
cancer). Rajoy is not mentioned, but the allusion is clear
enough given the PSOE's recent allegations that Rajoy's
warnings on the economy were unpatriotic.

Election Polls - To be Taken With a Grain of Salt
--------------------------------------------- ----

17. (U) In addition to all the usual caveats about polling,
the general election in Spain is really 50 different races in
50 different provinces (plus Ceuta and Melilla). Polls which
simplify this to one set of numbers may be of limited use in
predicting the outcome. Also, the Spanish media, which
sponsors many of the polls, is blatantly partisan.

18. (U) An IPSOS poll published in the conservative economic
newspaper Expansion, based on 1,000 telephone interviews
conducted January 11-13 (before Zapatero,s admission the
government continued talking to ETA after the December 2006
Barajas bombing, the Gallardon story, and the stock market
jitters), showed the PSOE getting 41.5 percent of the vote to
the PP,s 39.5 percent. Voter turnout was predicted at 68 to
70 percent. The poll also showed 60 percent of Spaniards
pessimistic about the economy. The margin of error is

19. (U) A poll published by the leftist newspaper El Publico,
based on 4,007 telephone interviews conducted January 14-24
(the period when the three stories mentioned in the preceding
paragraph were breaking) showed the PSOE with 44.5 percent of
the vote and the PP with 38.7 percent. The margin of error

MADRID 00000105 004 OF 004

was plus or minus 1.3 percent.

What Are Spaniards Thinking?

20. (U) In a poll conducted by the government's Center of
Sociological Investigations (CIS) December 18-27 (released
February 1) 44.1 percent of respondents said the country's
economic situation was regular, 35.9 percent said bad or very
bad, and 19 percent said good or very good. Asked where the
economy would be in a year, 42 percent predicted no change,
34.7 percent said worse, and 9.8 percent said better. On the
political situation, 40.2 percent said regular, 36.7 percent
said bad or very bad, and 15.5 percent said good or very
good. Terrorism was identified as the principal problem in
Spain followed by unemployment, the economy, housing, and
immigration (in that order). When asked what problems most
affected them personally, it was the economy followed by
housing. The results were based on interviews of 2,472
Spaniards across Spain and had a margin of error of plus or
minus two percent. The poll did not inquire about voting
intentions but did ask respondents who they voted for in the
2004 general election. 32.4 percent said PSOE and 19.5
percent said PP. Interestingly, previous CIS polls showed
better numbers for the PSOE in response to that same
question. In 2007, the PSOE got 36.5 in April, 32.2 in June,
35.8 in July, and 37.3 in October. The PP got 20.1 in April,
19.8 in June, 21.5 in July, and 21.2 in October.

© Scoop Media

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