Thursday

21st Sep 2017

Spain calls for early elections as market confidence erodes

  • The Indignants have been staging protests for months (Photo: Ametxa)

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Rodriguez Zapatero on Friday (29 July) called for early elections in November, after months of "indignant" citizens' protests against austerity measures and amid market worries that the country may be heading towards a Greek-style bailout.

"The decision to announce the elections calendar today is to project political and economic certainty for the next few months: about what is needed to do, what we're going to do and about the date of elections," Zapatero said.

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Just hours earlier, Moody's credit ratings agency warned that it may downgrade Spain's government bonds by one notch to Aa3 because of the conditions attached to last week's deal on a second Greek bailout, which involves the private sector.

Even though eurozone leaders have been going to great lengths to reassure markets that making banks take a 'voluntary' cut in their gains on Greek bonds is a one-off and will not be replicated, Moody's said this set a "precedent" for other countries with high debt, such as Spain.

"The deal last week has not really rebuilt confidence across the eurozone, so Spain is still on their radar screens with costs rising," the ratings agency noted.

The yield on the Spanish government's 10-year bonds rose by ten points to 6.1 percent on Friday.

Zapatero's government recently passed fresh austerity measures in a bid to limit the budget deficit. The measures have for months been heavily contested by citizens calling themselves the "Indignants".

The protesters say the austerity drive has only led to more unemployment. Spain has the highest unemployment rate in the EU at over 21 percent. It is almost 50 percent among young people. The country's public debt is four points over the 60 percent of GDP limit allowed under eurozone rules.

Spain is one of the last outposts of a Social-Democratic government in Europe, with the centre-right having swept into power in most EU countries except for Austria, Greece and Cyprus.

In local elections held in May, Zapatero's party recorded its worst result in 30 years, suggesting that the centre-right People's Party may be set for a comeback in November, despite corruption scandals that have plagued the party.

Spain arrests Catalan officials

Armed Spanish police have arrested Catalan officials and seized ballots for an independence referendum, prompting appeals for EU help.

EU countries cool on Juncker's ideas

There was not much enthusiasm voiced in EU countries after Juncker unveiled his grand ideas about a single EU president and a larger eurozone. Dutch PM Rutte suggested seeing an eye doctor.

Juncker calls for united EU under one leader

The Commission president wants his position to be merged with the presidency of the European Council, and for all EU states to be in the eurozone and Schengen by 2019, post-Brexit.

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