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Spanish report Spanish report
by Euro Reporter
2011-07-04 09:32:05
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Government trails opposition by 14 points

Spaniards fed up with high unemployment and a sluggish economy would elect the centre-right Popular Party (PP) with a lead of more than 14 percentage points over the governing Socialists, an opinion poll showed on Sunday. The Metroscopia survey published in the daily El Pais found 44.7 percent of 1,001 respondents polled last week would vote for the PP as opposed to 30.4 percent for Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist party.

The gap was 13.8 points in a poll by the same organization a month ago and more than 10 points in local elections held on May 22, when the Socialists suffered their worst such defeat since Spain returned to democracy in 1978. The Socialists beat the PP by 3.6 points when parliamentary elections were last held in March 2008 after overseeing the euro zone's fastest-growing economy in 2007. But since then a decade-long housing bubble has burst and Spanish unemployment has soared to more than twice the European average. The Socialists' rating has meanwhile plunged 13.3 points and the PP has advanced by 4.6.

Metroscopia added that 50 percent of those polled thought Zapatero should call elections before the current parliamentary term is due to expire in March 2012, while 42 percent thought that would make matters worse. The PP have stepped up demands since their landslide victory in the May polls for Zapatero's government to resign, but have stopped short of calling for a no-confidence vote. Zapatero made it clear in the state of the nation debate in parliament last week that he intended to stay on to complete reforms designed to trim a wide deficit and convince bond markets Spain's public finances and financial system are solid.


Spain ETA-linked party says Basque peace deal real

A political group linked to separatists ETA won unprecedented control of city halls in the Basque Country in recent elections and now says it wants to work for peace even though it has not called on ETA to disband. A surprising court victory earlier this year allowed Bildu, the latest iteration of ETA's banned political wing, to field candidates in May elections and it went on to do better than expected at all levels of local politics.

Although Bildu has refused to call for the dissolution of ETA, which has killed over 850 people in its 50 year struggle for Basque independence, it has renounced violence and cajoled the armed band into a unilateral ceasefire in January 2010. Bildu, a coalition of leftist groups, says it is part of the path to end the conflict, but anti-ETA hardliners say it is still too close to the guerrilla group to be allowed to exist.

"We want practice, not rhetoric. The mere act of asking ETA to disappear to satisfy the Spanish nationalists will do nothing," Martin Garitano, president of one of the three provinces that make up the Basque Country told Reuters in an interview this week. "It is better to work day by day to remove violence from Basque politics so no politician needs a bodyguard and that no one fears for their political freedom," said the 48-year-old former journalist.


Spain to help struggling mortgage holders

Spain's government approved measures Friday to help the soaring number of homeowners, many jobless, who cannot pay their mortgages. The government has since mid-May faced demonstrations across the country from "indignant" protesters who have won broad public support in decrying the state of the economy and corruption. Among their demands are changes to Spain's strict mortgage foreclosure laws. Under Spanish law, banks have the right to auction houses in a foreclosure. If no buyers appear, as is often the case, the bank can take ownership of the house for 50 percent of its value.

Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said this percentage would be raised to 60 percent, which will leave a defaulter with a smaller debt to pay off. "Nobody will be able to take hold of the house of anyone for less than 60 percent of its value," he told a news conference after a weekly cabinet meeting where the measure was approved. The government will also raise the amount of a borrower's monthly income that can not be seized by a bank in case of default on a home loan to 961 Euros ($1,390) from 641 Euros, Rubalcaba said. If the defaulter has dependents, a further 30 percent per family member will remain untouchable. "These are measures aimed essentially at protecting those who can not continue to pay their mortgages," said Rubalcaba.

The number of foreclosed properties in Spain has climbed 10-fold over the past three years, according to Idealista.com, the country's largest property website. During the first quarter of the year there were nearly 22,000 foreclosures in Spain, according to government statistics. There were 93,000 during all of last year. Spain's unemployment rate shot up to 21.29 percent in the first quarter, the highest in the industrialised nations, following the collapse of a property bubble in 2008. The "indignant" want the government to change the law to allow homeowners to walk away from their entire debt by handing over the keys to their properties as in many other countries. In recent weeks the protesters have successfully blocked the eviction of dozens of homeowners by preventing court officials from entering homes to serve eviction notices.

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