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A working democracy

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, March 17, 2004

In response to Dan Ornelals’ Mar. 16 letter to the editor – “Socialist victory not a step in the right direction” – I must wholeheartedly disagree with his viewpoint that the motives of those who voted for the PSOE are “warped beyond comprehension.” As a Spanish citizen and a Socialist voter, I can tell you that the elections in Spain last week were only the end of the road to over a year of tension between government and the citizens.

Prime Minister Aznar sided with President Bush on the ousting of Saddam Hussein, while the vast majority of the population in Spain had been adamantly against any intervention in Iraq. Many polls showed over 90 percent of the country being against Spanish participation in that endeavor and the consequent occupation of Iraq. Furthermore, Al Qaeda had named Spain several times as allies of what Al Qaeda calls the U.S.’ “fight against Islam,” not terrorism and had threatened repercussion. In spite of all this, Aznar went ahead and sent troops to Iraq.

The events of March 11 in Madrid were the tipping point. Al Qaeda’s threats were materialized, and of course, Aznar’s Popular Party was quick to blame ETA for it, as they knew that Al Qaeda involvement in the bombings would produce the results we saw in the elections last Sunday. When evidence pointed away from Basque Separatist involvement, the electorate reacted appropriately.

That’s what democracy is about, allowing citizens to select or reject leaders who make decisions against the popular will that elected them to government in the first place. Spain decided they had enough of a government that did not listen to them, and elected another.

Our new Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has declared that the troops will be pulled unless they are put under U.N. command. This sentiment is not only shared in Spain, but by other governments as well, for example in the Socialist … uh, I mean Labour, British Government.

Lastly, I would like to point to the fact that the word “Socialism” in this country continues to be tainted by the Soviet Communist legacy. Conversely, Socialism in Europe does not mean Communism, or far-left for that matter. Yes, Spain has a far-left party. They’re called Izquierda Unida, and they fared poorly in the elections dropping three of their eight delegates in congress. Let’s not confuse apples with oranges.

Unlike what some seem to believe, Spain in not pulling out of the war on terrorism. The citizens have decided to pull out of a situation in which they did not want to be in, in the first place. Shouldn’t this be natural in a democracy? Unfortunately, it took a massacre in my home town for it to happen.

M. David Paredesgrad studentClass of 2005Mar. 17