Spain opposition wins poll

Spain's opposition Socialists have triumphed in general elections as the country struggles to come to terms with last week's Madrid railway massacre.

    Zapatero's Socialists benefited from voter anger

    Spain's interior minister, Angel

    Acebes, conceded late on Sunday evening

    that his ruling Popular party had lost the

    elections.

    "The PSOE has won the elections with 43.01% of the vote," Acebes said.

    He added he would give the Socialists 164 seats in the 350-member Chamber of Deputies, while the Co

    nservatives would have only 148 seats.

    The Conservative defeat came

    in the highly emotional aftermath of

    last week's Madrid railway massacre in which 200 people were

    killed.

    Iraq occupation

    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 p

    arty 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 against the government among many

    voters.

    The government's support for the US-led occupation of Iraq

    apparently proved a liability after a statement attributed to a

    l-Qaida said this was the reason for carrying out the devastating

    attacks in which 1500 people were wounded.

    Up to 90% of the population was against the Iraq war and

    occupation to which Aznar has contributed

    1300 Spanish troops.

    The Madrid train blasts cast a
    long shadow over the elections

    High turnout

    Aznar was stepping down after two terms as prime minister, having

    handed over the party reins to former deputy Mariano Rajoy, who was up

    against PSOE rival Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

    About two-thirds of Spain's 35 million voters turned out, a

    relatively high proportion.

    The outgoing government had laid most suspicion for the attacks

    on the Basque separatist group ETA, which denied responsibility.

    But in the hours before the election, attention swung to possible a

    l-Qaida involvement after a video was discovered claiming the

    atrocity in the Islamist group's name.

    "We claim responsibility for what happened in Madrid exactly two

    and a half years after the attacks in New York and Washington," said

    a man claiming to be an al-Qaida spokesman in the video

    .

    Arrests

    "This is an answer to your cooperation with the Bush criminals

    and their allies. This is an answer to crimes which you committed in

    the world, notably in Iraq and Afghanistan, and there will be more,

    so help us God."

    After the threat, Spanish authorities implemented

    "exceptional" security measures for the elections with 106,000

    officers in the streets and additional police forces "ready to be

    sent anywhere they may be needed", an interior ministry spokesman

    said.

    Three Moroccans and two Indians arrested late on Saturday

     in relation to clues found in a bag containing a bomb that

    failed to go off, were being held under an anti-terrorist law

    permitting extended detention.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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