Sunday, May 22, 2011

Spain holds polls amid protests

Demonstrators have defied a ban by authorities and continued their protests

Source: Press TV

Voting begins in Spain's local elections as tens of thousands of angry demonstrators remain camped out in squares to protest the government's economic policies.

Polls opened at 9 a.m. (0700 GMT) and close at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT) with first results expected between 10 p.m. (2000 GMT) and 11 p.m. (2100 GMT).

The outcome of Sunday's regional elections are unlikely to be effected by the pressure of the protesters; however, the ruling Socialists are expected to suffer major losses in the elections for city councils and regional governments, according to the state-run BBC.

More than 34 million people are eligible to vote, choosing 8,116 mayors, 68,400 town councilors and 824 members of regional parliaments for 13 of the 17 semi-autonomous regions.

Disgruntled Spaniards, who began their protests on May 15 to demand jobs, housing and "real democracy," vowed to stay until Sunday elections if police try to use force to disperse their peaceful protests.

Demonstrators defied a ban by authorities and poured into Madrid's central Puerta del Sol square and in several cities, including Granada, Seville, Barcelona, Valencia, Zaragoza and Palma de Majorca.

"I hope this changes our situation. We have a right to regular jobs, a future and a decent salary, to more opportunities in life, the chance to get a house, to pay for that house without being enslaved, but especially a better quality of life," said one protester.

Spain's unemployment rate soared to 21.29 percent, with 4.9 million jobless for the first quarter of 2011, according to the government statistics published in late April.

In May 2010, the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero introduced a slew of drastic austerity measures, including cutting civil servants pay as part of plans to curb budget deficit from 11 percent a year earlier to within the 3 percent of GDP limit set by the European Union by 2013

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