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Last Updated: Monday, 15 March, 2004, 08:13 GMT
Spain's government ousted in poll
Protest sign
The Madrid blasts are thought to have swayed the vote
Spain's Socialist Party has won a shock election victory after voters appeared to turn on the government over its handling of the Madrid bombings.

Jose Maria Aznar's Popular Party insisted Basque militants had carried out the attacks that killed 200, despite possible links to al-Qaeda.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spain's new prime minister-elect, has said his first priority is to fight terrorism.

Socialists won 42% of the vote, while the centre-right Popular Party won 38%.

The BBC's Chris Morris, in Madrid, says the train bombings did more than shock Spain to the core; they proved to be the decisive factor in the general election that ousted the government.

Congratulations

Mr Zapatero was - until Thursday's bombings - considered an outsider for Spain's top job.

PROVISIONAL SPANISH ELECTION RESULTS
Socialists (PSOE): 42%
Popular Party (PP): 38%
Catalan Regional Party (CiU): 3%
Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC): 2.5%
United Left (IU): 5%
Turnout: 77%
Despite his party's victory, however, there is expected to be much political "horse-trading" because the Socialists did not win an absolute majority.

While Mr Zapatero said his first priority was to tackle terrorism "in all its forms", he is thought likely to do it in a very different way than the outgoing government.

He strongly opposed Spain's support for the US-led war in Iraq and our correspondent says he may now seek to withdraw Spanish troops who are serving in Iraq.

I feel very happy. The government had to change... because of the Iraq war
Spanish law student

A larger than expected 77% of the electorate turned out to vote in the wake of last Thursday's attacks.

But our correspondent says the late swing to the Socialists also raises one disturbing thought - if al-Qaeda was responsible for Thursday's attacks, it appears to have had significant influence in changing the government of a leading Western democracy.

Aznar criticised

Investigations are continuing into who was behind the bombings.

Voters defiant after the horror of Thursday's bomb attacks

A videotaped claim of responsibility by a man identifying himself as al-Qaeda's military spokesman in Europe forced the government to change its stance on the most likely suspects.

The tape - claiming revenge for Spain's "collaboration with the criminals Bush and his allies" - was found in a litter bin on Saturday following a tip-off to a TV station.

Outgoing Foreign Minister Ana Palacio told the BBC that Eta was still a strong suspect, and said police were not ruling out a possible collaboration between Eta and al-Qaeda.

Three Moroccans and two Indians are being held in connection with the attacks.

Germany has called an urgent meeting of EU interior ministers to discuss the situation.

Duty to vote

Black ribbons hung from polling booths and voters' lapels on Sunday.

Cayetano Abad, one of the 1,500 wounded in last Thursday's attacks, was driven to a polling station in an ambulance.

Cayetano Abad, injured in the Madrid attacks, casts his vote
Wounded Cayetano Abad voted to show "we cannot stand idle"

Many people admitted they had not planned to vote until the bombings.

"It's the first time I voted. I feel very happy because the government had to change... because of the Iraq war," a Spanish law student told the BBC.

Outgoing Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and his wife were booed and jostled as they arrived to cast their votes.

The Spanish Government backed the US-led invasion of Iraq last year despite polls showing 90% opposition to it from the Spanish public.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
"This is a bittersweet victory for the Socialists"



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