Spain votes for continuity

THE outcome of Spain's parliamentry elections -- the return of Prime Minister Felipe Gonz'alez's Socialist Party to another four years in office -- adds up to a nationwide vote for political stability and essentially moderate policies. The election needs to be seen in a larger context than just the renewed mandate for the Socialists. Mr. Gonz'alez campaigned on a policy of job creation based on industrial investment. He reaffirmed Spain's links to the Western commmunity through Spain's membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as well as membership in the European Common Market, which Madrid formally joined at the beginning of this year. In short, his campaign was based on a policy that stressed economic modernization, political continuity, and close strategic links with the West.

Nor was the Gonz'alez campaign singular. Although a number of parties and coalitions vied for the attention of voters, the three major political groupings, the Socialists, the conservative Popular Coalition, and the centrist Democratic and Social Center, headed up by former Prime Minister Adolfo Su'arez, captured close to 80 percent of the total vote.

The upshot: The parliamentary vote underscored a low-key continuity in this fourth election since the end of authoritarian rule in 1975, with the passing of Gen. Francisco Franco. There was something almost reassuring about newspaper photos over the weekend showing voters in bathing attire casually voting before their jaunt to the beach.

Mr. Gonz'alez, of course, can hardly be complacent about the problems faced by his nation. Inflation has fallen sharply, but at the expense of rising joblessness -- at 22 percent, the highest in Europe. Many leftists continue to desire a lessening of Spain's military links to the West. And splinter political factions, particularly the Basque separatists, continue to gain at the voting booths.

Western governments need to be particularly supportive during this period, to help Spain as it continues to adjust to democratic government and as it bolsters efforts to integrate with the West after decades of relative isolationism.

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