Spain's ruling Socialists face their first electoral test on Sunday since the nation plunged into recession. The Basque region is one of the wealthiest but the economic crisis has become the population’s biggest concern, even ahead of terrorism.
The Premier of the Basque region, who’s running for re-election as a PNV candidate, has chosen the village of Mondragon to deliver a speech about sustainable development. It’s an opportunity - like every other day of this election campaign - to talk about the economic crisis.
“Sustainable development offers great opportunities in terms of the economy and job creation to get us out of this crisis. We want to see 20,000 people working in this sector, “ Juan José Ibarretxe told the crowd.
The Basque region is one of the wealthiest regions in Spain but the economic crisis has become the population’s biggest concern, ahead even of terrorism.
Irun, on the Spanish side of Basque territory, lives off the retail sector and the drop in demand is being sorely felt. Businesses have even decided to start accepting Spanish pesetas and French francs again.
"These are times of austerity but people demand quality and these are times where the price is extremely important,” explains Tomas Maeztu, president of the Irun retailers association.
“Clients are breaking open their piggy banks,” says Andoni Fernandez, an Irun retailer. “Often they pay a part in euros and a part in pesetas. They think they pay a bit less, because really they didn’t expect to have to use this money.”
In Lasarte, the industrial heart of the region, the number of jobless rose by 45% last year to 8% of the active population. But even these figures don’t tell the whole story. At the Michelin factory, many workers are on temporary suspension orders, but not out of work, yet.
“We’ve already lost 700 jobs last year,” says Nicolas Garcia, a UGT union representative. “There’s an election campaign going on and all candidates make lots of promises but I can’t see how there can be solutions to this at a regional level.”
The various candidates’ economic proposals aren’t enough to defeat the pessimism that risks affecting voters’ turnout.
These are the first elections since Spain went into recession at the end of 2008 and they’ll likely be a gauge of how much confidence there is in the Zapatero government to tackle the crisis.
Date created : 2009-02-28