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From 'Too Pink' to Conservative: How Women and Young People Feel Deceived by Spanish President Rodríguez Zapatero

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"Don't fail us!" thousands of young voters shouted the night of the 14th of March 2004 in front of the headquarters of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE). They celebrated the victory of the socialists with music, alcohol and waving flags. During his first term, President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, kept his promises. Now his young voters feel betrayed. A month before the general election and at the end of his second term, opinion polls show a decrease of 18 percent of the voting intention of young people (18-35 years old). Women also feel betrayed. Their intention of voting for the PSOE is now 16 percent less than in 2008.

The night the socialists won in 2004, young people not only celebrated the victory of the socialists, but also -- and especially -- the defeat of the right wing party (PP). They felt deceived by PP because they had blamed the Basque separatists for the worst terrorist attack in Spain (191 deaths), also known as 11-M. The attack took place only three days before the general election. All the evidence indicated that al Qaeda committed the attack, possibly in reaction to the Spanish participation in the Iraqi war. 92 percent of the Spanish population rejected the war. The withdrawal of the troops was, precisely, the first promise Zapatero kept.

During the four years of Zapatero's first term, social laws were passed (such as the same-sex marriage) and the economy went well. But what most people didn't know was that Spain was living in a real estate bubble. Zapatero was reelected in 2008, just when the bubble burst. Young people with very good salaries in the construction sector found themselves without their jobs, money or future. The unemployment rate of the young people (under 25) is now about 45 percent.

Young people who went to university also have problems in finding a proper job. A third of them are overqualified for their actual position. They feel their studies have been wasted. Opinion polls show that about 70 percent of the youth are ready to leave Spain to find a better job. They accuse Zapatero of bad economic policies, and especially because of the cuts in the social welfare state.

Betrayal and deception are also felt amongst women. Zapatero was known as the "President of women". In 2008, his cabinet was predominantly female. Carme Chacón, 37, e.g. took control over the Defense Ministry. She was expecting a baby. Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi even said that the Spanish government was "too pink". Zapatero worked on social issues, including gender-motivated violence, discrimination, divorce, abortion, baby-bonus, etc. He even founded a Ministry of Equality.

For the first time in Spanish history, women were a key issue to politics. But now economy has become more important and the PSOE has had to cut expenses. Zapatero eliminated the baby bonus and the Ministry of Equality. In 1.5 million Spanish homes, all the members of the family are unemployed. Women, with an unemployment rate of nearly 20 percent, watch how their children are losing opportunities and how the social welfare state is suffering.

On the 20th of November, a general election will decide if the PSOE stays in power or is replaced by the conservative PP. Zapatero won't stand for re-election. Women and young people are abandoning the PSOE. Opinion polls show that nearly 30 percent of Spanish women are going to vote for the conservative party, this constitutes 7 percent more than in 2008. The young people's intention of voting also goes to the PP (27 percent) as well as to the smaller parties (28 percent).

In 2004, people celebrated the end of a conservative government and the end of war because they felt deceived by the PP. Now, eight years and two socialists' terms later, opinion polls show that women and young people will celebrate the end of a President who they feel betrayed them. It is Spain's politics of deception. Since the restoration of democracy, all Spanish Presidents have left power with severely damaged popularity.

Spaniards are not particularly enthusiastic about the conservative candidate, Mariano Rajoy, his popularity is very low (about 4 on a scale of 1 to 10 according to the surveys) and it is the third time he runs for president. But Spain wants to get rid of the socialist government with the hope of an economic recovery. The 20th of November there will probably not be a victory of the conservatives; there will be the defeat of the socialists.

Marie Mertens and Rosa Pascual are students at the School of Journalism of UAM / El País in Madrid.