November 21 Update: As opinion polls predicted, the center-right Popular Party (PP), led by Mariano Rajoy, swept Spain’s parliamentary elections on Sunday. Despite running a deliberately vague campaign that mainly played to the electorate’s desire for change, Rajoy overwhelmingly defeated the socialist candidate, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, winning an absolute majority:186 of the 350 seats in the lower chamber of Parliament. Celebrations, however, are not expected to last. Although they do not officially take office until the end of December, Rajoy and the PP are already under pressure to stabilize the market for Spanish bonds, to appease calls for austerity from Frankfurt and Berlin, to decrease Spain’s soaring unemployment, and, ultimately, to save the country from economic recession and default.
For Europe, it turns out that November is the cruelest month: The debt crisis will claim at least three eurozone governments before it is over. Yet, unlike in Greece, where Prime Minister George Papandreou resigned last week, and in Italy, where Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi stepped down over the weekend, the political crisis upending Spain is toppling the government in slow motion. Facing dwindling public support, an unemployment rate of more than 20 percent, and the increasing cost of Spanish debt, the country's Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero threw in the towel last July and called for early elections to be held on November 20, four months ahead of schedule.
By all accounts, the election is expected to be a landslide. The current deputy prime minister of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE), Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, will face the seemingly perennial candidate of the conservative Popular Party (PP), Mariano Rajoy. Rajoy has lost twice before, but opinion polls suggest that the PP will win big this weekend, securing an absolute majority, its first in more than a decade. This is a so-called punishment vote against the ruling PSOE for presiding over Spain's decade-long boom and, now, its bust.
Those punished, however, will actually be the Spanish people and,
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