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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 March, 2004, 16:38 GMT
Spanish press frets over future
Spanish newspapers after the bombings

Spain's leading dailies consider the upheaval caused by the Madrid bombings and Socialist election victory and what it all means for the country's future.

Several papers point out that while the Popular Party (PP) was soundly beaten in the polls, it still garnered nearly 10 million votes, making it the main opposition party and a powerful force in Spanish politics.

Down, not out

The pro-PP ABC recognises that the magnitude of the party's loss was "traumatic" and calls on it "to adapt to the situation with spirit and determination".

The PP will do itself much harm if it fails to recognise that its support for Bush was a grave error
El Mundo

"Despite the hostility towards the Aznar government, more than nine million voters reiterated their faith in the policies of the modern, reformist and European centre-right."

ABC argues that the PP's strength was "forged not in government but in opposition" during the many years of socialist dominance under the leadership of Felipe Gonzalez.

"The PP is indispensable for Spain, and any political system that tries to govern without taking this into account will be doomed to failure."

The rightist daily El Mundo, which formerly backed the PP but has taken an independent line of late, provides what it describes as "a prescription for a PP cure".

Describing its defeat as "a brutal let-down", the daily advises the party to undertake "honest self-criticism of its Iraq policy" while backing its new leader, Mariano Rajoy.

"The PP will do itself much harm if it fails to recognise that its support for Bush in his intervention against Saddam Hussein was a grave error."

'Three black holes'

El Mundo argues that the PP needs to reach out to Andalusia, Catalonia and the Basque Country, where the party is deemed to have failed with its policies, in the face of a complex combination of nationalism, separatism and local issues.

There are urgent matters that put in stark relief the slowness of the timetable for a transfer of power
El Pais

"If the PP had not lost 600,000 votes and 18 seats in these three communities, Rajoy would have been able to form a government without an absolute majority."

The daily argues that Mr Rajoy must deal with "three black holes which are crucial for the future of his party".

The pro-PP La Razon quotes security sources as saying they expect the Basque separatist group Eta to "sound out" Socialist Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero "on the possibility of a truce".

La Razon says Eta offers usually turn out to be ultimatums, designed by the separatist movement to lead towards "recognition of the supposed right to self-determination of the Basque people, under conditions set by the terrorists".

"However, we have no doubt that the new prime minister will have no problem in turning down such an offer, which has no credibility whatsoever."

Race against time

The main leftist daily, El Pais, frets over the length of time of the political transition, comparing it unfavourably to Britain.

"There are urgent matters that place in stark relief the slowness of the timetable for the transfer of powers.

In the United Kingdom, the incumbent prime minister "would already have left Moncloa [the prime minister's office] and Zapatero would have moved in".

"The most important of these crucial issues, the fight against terrorism which has taken a new and terrible twist, requires top priority and close collaboration between the incoming and outgoing governments."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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