Yesterday the European Parliament elections went off smoothly and with no surprises. Abstention was high; the turnout in Spain was 46%. The Socialists won with 43% of the vote and 25 seats; the PP was second with 41% and 23 seats; Galeusca, the moderate regionalist coalition (CiU, PNV, BNG--not real moderate) was third with 5% and three seats; the Communists were fourth with 4% and two seats; the leftist regionalist coalition (ERC, EA, Labordeta) was fifth with 2.5% and two seats; and the conservative regionalist coalition (CC, PA, UV, PAR) was last with 1.2% and no seats.
My guess is that these results are extremely indicative of the political feelings of the top 50% or so of the population. (Note: I am assuming that smart people are also generally politically aware. Most of the smart people I know vote. A lot of the crazy or dumb ones I know don't. Also, I don't mean the top 50% by class, I mean the top 50% in general intelligence, civic participation, concern with the general and public interests, awareness of what's going on, etc.)
What this means is that the balance really has moved toward the Socialists. The "people who are part of the political process", as my old high school history teacher, Mr. John Forbes, used to say, have tipped from majority PP supporters to majority Socialist supporters. The PP has shown it's still a force to be reckoned with; they showed that they have staying power. They lost these elections but they didn't crash and burn.
Fair enough. What it looks to me like is that a significant number of former PP voters among our top 50% have changed alliegence, due probably to their dislike of the PP positions and actions regarding Iraq.
Normally, in politics, we get participation rates in the 50-70 percent range. These are the ones who are part of the process, and they are the ones who decide for everybody. So when we were predicting the results of the March 14 general elections, we were assuming that the regular voters would stick with the PP, as they had for the previous eight years. Because of the March 11 bombings, though, the turnout was over 80%. Many people who normally don't care enough to vote voted; between a third and a half of the Spanish nonvoters did come out for the March 14 generals this one time. That is a serious vote of punishment. The regular voters pissed off the proletariat enough to bring them to the polls where they laid a whupping on the PP, the most obvious target for their wrath. I will guarantee you that 100% of those normal abstainers who voted did so against the PP.
Well, now we're back to politics as normal; now the Socialists have proven they're on top, though not by much, among the political participants. They are definitely the legitimate governing party in Spain. The people have spoken. They gave enough of their votes to the PP to allow them to be a creditable loyal oppoition.
Overall participation in the 25 countries voting was 44%, meaning these elections definitely did not inspire your normal non-voter at all. In Europe as a whole, the European Popular Party (conservative) was the big winner with 268 seats (out of 732). The Socialists are second with 199; independent small groups make up 88; the Liberals (not that liberal in the European sense, more centrist) 63, the Greens 42, the Union for...oh, screw it, the conservative regionalists, 26, the Communists 26, and the Europe for Diffe...ohm screw it, the euroskeptics 20. This most likely means some kind of center-right alliance, emphasis on center, between the EPP, the Liberals, and the conservative regionalists.