Spaniards voting to increase the pain

It isn't so much that the Spanish people want to inflict harsher austerity measures on themselves. It's that the socialists have botched things so badly, that the center right candidate will win pretty much by default.

Madrid-based Soren Kern participating in a symposium on the Spanish election at PJ Media:

Spain is split down the middle between the political left and right, although Spanish society leans just enough to the left so that left-wing parties normally have a slight edge at the polls. Conventional wisdom holds that the PP usually only wins if the PSOE screws up. Because the PSOE clearly has political ownership of the current economic crisis in Spain, the PP will benefit at the polls this time around.

Nevertheless, there is little enthusiasm in Spain (either on the left or on the right) for the PP candidate, Mariano Rajoy. He is widely viewed as having the aura of a loser, having lost two previous elections against the PSOE (in 2004 and 2008). The only reason Rajoy is the PP candidate in 2011 is because of the idiosyncratic nature of the Spanish political party system, which operates on patronage and clientelism.

In other words, Rajoy is set to win on November 20 by default, because he is the only alternative to the PSOE candidate. However, should Rajoy be perceived as having failed to lead Spain out of the economic crisis before the next general election cycle in 2014-2015, the PSOE would probably be favored to return to power.

The unemployment rate in Spain is 22.6% One Spanish voter explains why he is supporting the People's Party:

Spain joined the euro in 1999 and enjoyed years of prosperity and a real estate boom driven by cheap credit. When the property market crashed in 2007 the government, companies and consumers all found themselves over their heads in debt.

"We have to do something. What we were doing was not enough, things were just getting worse and worse. We have a frightful situation with 5 million unemployed and a million and a half with no income. Thank God I haven't lost my job," said Luis Escobar, a 50-year-old hotel worker.

"The best social policy is to create jobs. The guys in power haven't done anything so if you want things to change you have to do something," he said, adding that he would vote for the People's Party.

Some regions, notably southern Andalucia, heartland of Spain's tourist industry, have been hit worse than others.

Last week, yields on Spanish bonds rose above 7% - completely unsustainable. Unfortunately, the PP is not expected to be able to turn things around. Kern:

In summary, Rajoy's leadership abilities are completely untested and he has zero charisma to rally the general public around grand ideas. It remains to be seen whether he and his advisors will have the vision and the fortitude to implement the painful changes needed to get Spain back on track. Any changes to the status quo will be fiercely resisted by powerful interest groups on many levels of Spanish society. The odds would seem to be against Rajoy succeeding in any meaningful way, but if he assembles a team of competent technocrats and advisors to govern Spain, there certainly is hope.

Hope is not an economic plan. But it's a start.