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Andalusian changeover

Winning in the region would give the PP the greatest power base in democratic history

Andalusia is heading toward an historic changeover in next Sunday’s election, the significance of which goes beyond the borders of that region. In 30 years of uninterrupted rule, the Socialist Party (PSOE) has made the Andalusian administration in its own image and the region has been the party’s failsafe electoral bastion. Now, the likelihood of a Popular Party (PP) conquest, as shown in the results of a Metroscopia survey commissioned by this newspaper, is poised to put the icing on the cake of the electoral victories achieved by Mariano Rajoy since May 2011. It will enlarge his power base from which to rule, the greatest any party has enjoyed since the restoration of democracy in Spain.

Meanwhile, Asturias, which goes to the polls the same day as Andalusia, is the scene of an internecine fight at the heart of the Spanish right. If the PP cannot find a way to cooperate with the breakaway party of former minister Francisco Álvarez-Cascos, the left could benefit. This is an important election, but it lacks the transcendence of the contest in Andalusia.

Should the PP confirm the pollsters’ findings and effect the turnover in Andalusia, the party would have in its hands almost all institutional power in Spain — it has a supporting role even in the two regional administrations which it does not directly control: Catalonia and the Basque Country. This situation would mean a free hand to carry out the reform program which the government has already sketched out and other changes yet to be revealed. This could even include the actual status of regional governments, whose financial plight appears to be unsustainable. Only an unexpected turnaround on the home straight of the election campaign could prevent this scenario, and leave in the south a last bastion of resistance to PP rule.

Andalusians seem to have decided that it is time to give the PP an opportunity. This can be seen in the loyalty of conservative voters to this party as well as in the weakening of support for the Socialists. Only 52 percent of those who voted PSOE in 2008 plan to do so again, whereas the same statistic is 76 percent among PP supporters, according to the poll. After three failed attempts, PP candidate Javier Arenas is on the verge of attaining the premiership of Andalusia. And Prime Minister Rajoy has done all that is in his power to give his party colleague a helping hand by keeping the national budget under wraps until after the election.

The winner, though, will face grave problems of social cohesion. With anemic economic growth and an unemployment rate of 31 percent — well above the national average — the Andalusian region is one of the least dynamic in Spain. The present crisis’ impact weighs down the longstanding party of government in the region. The Andalusian PSOE is also blighted by internal divisions and the breaking of a major corruption scandal which reveals 10 years of fraudulent managing of funds by the regional government’s labor department. To all this must be added a perception that the party has been too long in power and that this has led to a certain cronyism in its exercise of government. There are too many obstacles in the way of any faith in a last-minute miracle.

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