Spain's Indignant movement gears for new struggle

Fri Nov 18, 2011 8:22am EST

Related Topics

* Spain's "Indignados" to renew protests

* Have urged no vote for main parties

* Austerity measures focus for discontent

By Jonathan Gleave

MADRID , Nov 18 (Reuters) - The thousands of protestors who filled town squares across Spain earlier this year are getting ready to take to the streets again when the new government brings in harsh austerity measures.

The "Indignados" (Indignant), as they came to be known, have kept their heads down in the run-up to Sunday's elections and called for voters to boycott the two main political parties

Polls predict a sweeping victory for the centre-right People's Party (PP) over the ruling Socialists (PSOE) and it is expected to unleash a wave of spending cuts and labour reforms to combat the debt crisis that is roiling the euro zone.

Disillusion with Spain's political establishment was a driving factor of the protests, especially among the young people who are bearing the brunt of Spain's 21 per cent unemployment.

"I suppose I'll vote on Sunday but it isn't really important. The big demos will come with the real issues - cutbacks," said 42-year-old street artist Ciril Vidal.

"More and more people are seeing that we don't need a new government, we need a whole new model."

The loose grouping of jobless youths, cash-strapped pensioners, students, anti-capitalists and electoral reform campaigners occupied squares in towns and cities across Spain in May in protest against the recession and a political class they felt had betrayed them with bank bailouts and austerity measures.

The focal point was the Puerta del Sol in the centre of the capital Madrid. Camping out in tents and makeshift shelters, they inspired similar movements elswehere in Europe and the United States.

Unlike in Greece and Italy, where protests against austerity measures have turned violent, the Spanish movement has been largely peaceful.

Demonstrators plan to protest again on Saturday, defying a ban on such rallies on the day before an elections.

In a sign of what PP leader Mariano Rajoy can expect as prime minister, thousands of teachers and students marched in Madrid and other cities on Thursday night in protest against job and budget cuts in public education.

NO VOTE FOR BIG PARTIES

The Indignant movement has urged Spaniards not to vote for the two main political parties, who have alternated in power since the end of the Franco dictatorship and the return to democracy in 1978.

For many, a vote for the Socialists they feel have abandoned them is unthinkable and in messages on social media, they have combined the names of the two parties into a single acronym, PPSOE.

But there is no consensus on whether people should abstain, cast votes, or back minor parties.

"I'm more sure of whom I'm not going to vote for than who I am. I'm not voting for the big parties, I don't know whether I will vote for the United Left (IU) coalition or one of the small parties," said 22-year-old communications studies Paula García.

Spain's third largest political party, the United Left, is likely to garner the most votes from the Indignant movement, given it has been one of the loudest opponents of the bank bail-outs and austerity measures which prokoved ire.

However, the main winner from the Indignados call not to vote for the main parties is likely to be the PP, whose path towards an absolute majority may be cleared by a protest vote against the Socialists.

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