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The BBC's Orla Guerin in Madrid
"The government's big win has changed the landscape here"
 real 28k

The BBC's Orla Guerin
"An army of Aznar supporters on the streets"
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The BBC's Joanne Episcopo
No one anticipated the size of the victory
 real 28k

Monday, 13 March, 2000, 11:58 GMT
Spanish PM sweeps back in
Aznar supporters waving flags celebrated into the early hours
Aznar supporters waved flags celebrated into the early hours
The Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, has promised a dialogue with all sections of Spanish society after his sweeping victory in the general election.

His centre-right Popular Party gained an absolute majority in parliament - the first time the right-wing has done so since democracy was restored in 1976.

Supporters celebrated into the early hours as it became clear that the party had taken 183 seats out of 350.

"Our attitude will be one of openness to permanent dialogue with all parts of Spanish society and its political groups," Mr Aznar said.

Election result pie chart
Speaking from a balcony draped with a large picture of himself and a banner reading "Gracias" (Thank you), Mr Aznar said Spaniards had seen many of their dreams become a reality.

"The most important thing is to continue to trust, support and believe in an optimistic country, a vibrant country, a country that is moving forward, a country that wants to win itself a future," he said.

The Popular Party's gains came chiefly at the expense of the left-wing opposition alliance.

Socialist leader steps down

The Socialist Party leader Joaquin Almunia conceded defeat and announced that he was tendering his resignation as party leader.

Jose Maria Aznar
Prime Minister Aznar is back with a majority
Mr Almunia said the Socialist Party - which governed Spain from 1983 until it was ousted by the Popular Party in 1996 - needed to undergo deep reforms.

"With these results, (we have) to face up to renewal of the Socialist Party that requires a new and more focused direction than the one we have managed up to now."

His party lost 16 seats in the election; the other big losers of the night were the United Left party, down to eight seats from the previous tally of 21.

The Catalan nationalist Convergence and Union Party, which supported the Popular Party in the last parliament, ended up with 15 seats - one fewer than before.

Economic success

Polls had suggested a victory for Mr Aznar, but well short of an absolute parliamentary majority.

Voter in drag
It was carnival season - and some voters were in costume
His Popular Party had been expected to win a slim majority on the basis of the buoyant Spanish economy.

BBC correspondents say Mr Aznar's government has had an impressive economic record since taking power in 1996.

Annual growth is running at 4%, Spain has qualified for the single European currency and unemployment has dropped from more than 20% to 15%.

Attack fears

More than 100,000 police and Civil Guards were on duty amid fears of an attack by Basque separatists.

Extra officers were posted at polling stations and on patrol duties, particularly in the northern Basque region where the paramilitary group ETA is fighting for an independent state.

No incidents of violence have been reported.

Many people believe Mr Aznar's tough line with the Basque separatist group, ETA, led it to end its 14-month ceasefire last December.

An army colonel and a regional politician and his bodyguard died in two car bomb blasts this year.

In the Basque country, where ETA's political wing Herri Batasuna called for a boycott, officials found some polling station doors blocked with toothpicks and silicon.

An official in Irun, who had foreseen the possibility of such sabotage, clambered in a window left open overnight to open the polling booth.

According to official results, with about 98.5% of the vote counted, 35.5% of Basque voters abstained compared to 28.5% at the last election. The national abstention rate was about 30%.

The Popular Party and the moderate Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) both gained two more seats in the Basque region than they had in the last parliament.

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See also:

13 Mar 00 | Europe
Aznar: The quiet man who roared
12 Mar 00 | Europe
In pictures: Spain at the polls
13 Mar 00 | Media reports
Aznar's victory speech - in full
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