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A victory for Hollande, a victory for Spain

Conservative Mariano Rajoy will welcome the arrival of the French Socialist in power, given the unlikely deficit targets the Spanish economy is expected to meet.


Hollande's victory could help ease the deficit pressure building on Mariano Rajoy (right).

François Hollande’s French presidential election win has been trumpeted as a triumph for Socialists across Europe. Not only does it stem the tide of centre-right governments that have taken control of most EU countries, it also vindicates the European left’s resistance to austerity at any cost.

And the champagne was being uncorked on Sunday at the headquarters of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), as its leaders enjoyed the thought that finally, their neighbour to the north has a left-leaning president. We don’t know whether Hollande will deliver on some of his bigger promises, such as reducing the retirement age or renegotiating fiscal targets with the EU. But the fact that one of the eurozone’s “Big Two” is even pondering such objectives offers some comfort to PSOE leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, who is still struggling to find a convincing, coherent voice for his party in opposition.

And yet, Rubalcaba isn’t the only Spanish political leader who will have celebrated Hollande’s victory. There’s also Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Yes, Rajoy is a conservative whose Partido Popular (PP) contains some hardline right-wing elements. But more relevantly, he’s also fighting a nearly impossible battle to slash the Spanish deficit from 8.5 percent to 5.3 percent of GDP this year alone. This target, set by the EU, has to be achieved with the Spanish economy having fallen into a double-dip recession and with unemployment at close to 25 percent and rising.

Rajoy has already haggled with Brussels over the 2012 deficit target, which was originally 4.4 percent, but even the revised figure means the prime minister feels impelled to implement an austerity plan that is eroding his popularity and which has sparked a rash of street protests, including a general strike.

Therefore, Hollande’s win is good news for Rajoy, at least if the new French president delivers on his promise to ease up the deficit pressure being exerted by Brussels.

On winning power in November 2011, Rajoy said he would make sure Spain was no longer a problem for Europe and put it at the heart of the bloc. That hasn’t happened, given that Spain is now arguably the EU’s main worry. But with Hollande installed at the Élysée Palace, Rajoy won’t feel quite so lonely if – or when – he travels to Brussels to explain that Spain can’t meet its deficit targets.

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Published: May 7 2012
Category: Iberoblog, Featured, Spain News
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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