Spanish elections – a win for al Queda?

by on March 15th, 2004

Many opinions have been expressed regarding the terrorist attacks in Spain and their effect on the election.

Most seem to feel that the attacks were a direct slap to the right-of-center Aznar government. Depending on which side of the fence they’re sitting, the Socialist Party victory is seen as a repudiation of conservative handling of terrorism or evidence that al-Queda is winning.

I’m not so sure about either idea. Ninety-four percent of Spain’s citizenry oppose the war in Iraq and providing Spanish troops to the effort. One of the Socialist Party’s promises is to disentangle from Spain’s alliance with the Bush administration’s war policy and bring Spanish troops home.

Had the Socialist Party been in power the last several years, formed an unconditional alliance with the United States, and sent troops into Iraq – would they have been re-elected?

It’s apparently not the party label voters rejected, but an anti-war protest in it’s most potent form.

It was not a general anti-war, pacifist protest; it was a repudiation of the Iraq war. Spain has provided invaluable expertise in the war in Afghanistan – from engineers to bomb disposal to helicopter support and beyond. Whether or not Zapatero will pull Spanish troops from Afghanistan remains to be seen; far fewer Spaniards oppose the war in Afghanistan than the war in Iraq.

Is al Queda “winning” by influencing elections? I suppose it could be spun that way, but al Queda wasn’t on the ballot, nor were their demands for the United States to pull troops from Saudi Arabia or for Israel to disappear.

Spain has a long history of vigorously fighting terrorism, both domestic and foreign, and cooperation with other countries in the effort. Like every other nation in the world, their record is a mixed story of successes and failures. There is no reason to think a change in government will suddenly imperil their intelligence gathering apparatus, police work, or military. Nor is it reasonable to believe the voters desired less vigilance.

The voters certainly did not embrace al Queda or cave to it’s demands – they rejected Aznar’s alliance with George Bush and the war in Iraq and Aznar’s apparently politically motivated attempts to pin the blame for the latest terrorist attack on ETA.

Perhaps the message of the Spanish election is not a win for al Queda or a repudiation of the right-center policies, but a rejection of politicians who don the triumphalist armor, and attempt to manipulate events in their own favor.