3/11 Bombings


Some are arguing with passion and eloquence that the Spanish elections represent a surrender to al Qaeda. One of my friends from Spain wrote the following article, which he has kindly permitted me to reprint below.

The Spanish elections, Al-Qaeda and the 3/11 Massacre
by Ricardo Carreras Lario

An easy interpretation about the surprising electoral victory of Spain's main opposition party, the Spanish Socialist Worker's Party or PSOE, at the recent polls in Spain is that voters have blamed the support given to the US-led coalition by the conservative People's Party for the terrible attacks of Madrid, probably undertaken by Al-Qaeda mass murderers.

Nevertheless, the party that most vehemently opposed the Iraq war and that could more clearly launch this accusation is the United Left (IU) coalition centered around the Communist Party. This IU Coalition obtained a worse result than in the 2000 general election with its representation in the Spanish House of Representatives falling from 8 to 5 deputies, out of 350.

How can we explain this? There are other factors we should consider.

For starters, Spanish electoral rules forbid the use of polls during the last seven days prior to an election. This always causes a "tunnel effect" and a considerable gap between the last polls a week before and the actual result. In this case, the dynamics of the race were favoring the PSOE, which had already cut in half the distance with the People's Party from 8 to 4% a week before the elections. And they were ascending. This means that even before the 3/11 tragedy, results would have been tighter than foreseen a week in advance.

On the other hand, we have the participation factor. In a country like Spain, ideologically center-left, a high turnout always helps the parties of that political tendency. Unlike what happened in 2000, when the apathy of many center-left voters gave the PP the absolute majority, it is clear this high turnout has favored PSOE. In that sense, the tragedy has had an indirect effect, increasing the feeling that voting was a moral, patriotic duty, as a civic reaction to the massacre.

Finally, another indirect effect has been the communication management of the crisis. Many voters have felt that the government was not accurately informing the public about the tragedy's investigations. The government insisted that the ETA terrorist band was behind the massacre and some interpreted this as evidence that the People's Party wanted to benefit from it politically. It also reinforced pre-existing perceptions about prior crisis, in which many believed the government was not being completely honest, such as the ecological disaster brought last year by the Sinking of the Prestige ship, or the crisis around an airplane accident that killed more than 60 military men coming back from Afghanistan -- and finally, criticism about the partiality of the public media.

Spanish public TV was condemned by the Supreme Court for not informing fairly about a general strike. The message "no more lies, no more manipulation" was part of the PSOE campaign before the tragedy.

All these effects combined and reinforced themselves mutually, and also caused an increase in a "useful vote" for the PSOE the Spanish electoral system favors big parties- and against the People's Party.

The conclusion is that this horrible massacre affected the result, but only indirectly, through the civic reaction to it and the poor management of the crisis by the government.

Bin Laden did not win the election. Democracy did -- in Cuba or North Korea there are no electoral surprises.

To suggest, simplistically, that Spaniards are cowards who give in to the desires of Al-Qaeda terrorists, is to deeply ignore both our history and the fact that our domestic ETA terrorism has caused more than 800 dead without achieving any of its objectives.

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