Hundreds of young Spaniards camped out in Madrid and other cities on Saturday to protest against high unemployment and austerity, defying a ban on demonstrations in the run up to local elections.
The number of protesters, dubbed “los indignados” (the indignant), was expected to swell by the evening, after 25,000 people crammed into Madrid’s main plaza on Friday night.Protesters were also gathered in Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla, Bilbao and other cities, as they have been all week, urging people not to vote for Spain’s two main parties, the ruling Socialists or the center-right opposition Popular Party in Sunday’s local elections.
Fearing violent clashes, the Socialist government has not enforced a ban, which went into effect at midnight and prohibits political events on the eve of elections.“I’m protesting because I’ve got no job future in Spain even though I’ve finished my degree in tourism,” said 25-year-old Inma Moreno on Madrid’s Puerta del Sol plaza. “This should make the political classes aware that something is not right.”
It’s tempting to make a sweeping statement and say that the spirit of the Arab Spring has swept into Southern Europe. Such a statement would be at best speculative and premature (my way of saying stupid). I know little about Spain, but I am genuinely curious to see if the protesters’ desire — that people vote for neither of the two major parties in the upcoming elections — will be a boon for a third party smart enough to harness populist anger.
Still, high unemployment among younger workers, whether it’s disenfranchisement in Tunisia and Egypt or 45 is starting to look like a guarantor of large social protests, even in a stable democracy (it’s commendable that Prime Minister Zapatero is respecting the protesters and not enforcing a ban on protests).