Spanish socialists win election

The Popular Party (PP) was headed for defeat in Sunday’s plebiscite after an official count of nearly 75 percent of the ballots showed the opposition Socialists with a clear lead.

The figures showed the PP with 37.1 percent and the Socialists (PSOE) with 43.3 percent, according to figures from the interior ministry.

The vote was played out against the highly emotional aftermath of last week’s Madrid railway massacre in which 200 people were killed.

PSOE secretary Jose Blanco said “it’s a clear victory in terms of votes and seats,” sparking euphoria at the party headquarters in Madrid.

The conservative Popular Party of outgoing Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, which was ahead in the polls only a week ago, apparently took a pasting because of its support for the United States in the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Only a week ago, four public opinion polls predicted the Popular Party would win with a reduced majority.

The elections came three days after a series of bomb blasts on four Madrid commuter trains that provoked high emotions among many voters against the government.

The government’s support for the US-led occupation of Iraq apparently proved a liability after a statement attributed to al-Qaeda said this was the reason for carrying out the devastating attacks, in which 1,500 people were wounded.

Up to 90 percent of the population was against the Iraq war and occupation, to which Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has contributed 1,300 Spanish troops.

Mr Aznar was stepping down after two terms as prime minister having handed over the PP reins to former deputy Mariano Rajoy, who was up against PSOE rival Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

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