Gonz'alez Squeaks By in Election


THE bare majority that Spain's Socialists eked out in Sunday's national elections will allow Prime Minister Felipe Gonz'alez M'arquez to pursue a policy of economic growth. That policy stands at the root of both support for and disenchantment with his party.

Yet even as Mr. Gonz'alez continues his policy of ``progress within stability,'' which has given Spain the highest economic growth rate in Europe, he must keep a closer eye on political movements on both his right and left.

Though winning 7.9 million votes, the Socialists lost about 1 million votes since the last general election three years ago.

In elections called eight months early by Gonz'alez, Spain's Socialists won 176 of 350 parliamentary seats: down from the 184 they held before, but nevertheless the minimum number needed for the Socialists to preserve the absolute majority they have held since 1982. That majority will include Carmen Romero - Gonz'alez's wife - who won a Socialist seat in the Andaluc'ian city of C'adiz.

The United Left, made up of communists and disenchanted socialists, increased its number of parliamentary seats from seven to 17. Led by charismatic communist leader Julio Anguita, the United Left capitalized on unhappiness among Spain's working classes over economic policies they say have benefited the wealthy while leaving out others.

Spain's workers are most directly touched by high unemployment - 17 percent - and government-negotiated pay hikes that average just over half this year's projected inflation rate of 7 percent. In perhaps the clearest expression of workers' disenchantment with the government, the Socialist-affiliated General Union of Workers, the country's largest labor union, for the first time made no recommendation for Sunday's vote.

Gonz'alez labored in the last days of the campaign to convince defecting supporters that pursuing the country's 5 percent growth rate was the best policy for increasing everyone's share of wealth. The United Left's new strength is a fresh reminder, however, that some concessions to labor may be necessary if disruptions like a one-day strike in December 1988 are to be avoided.

To Gonz'alez's right, the stability of support for the Popular Democratic Party, the principal conservative party, suggests that Spain's right may have found its footing after years of internal conflict and disorganization.

Under the new leadership of Jos'e Maria Aznar, a young regional representative with no national experience, the the Popular Democratic Party increased its number in parliament from 105 to 106.

Gonz'alez said when he called the early elections that he did so to give his government a clear and uninterrupted mandate for pursuing Spain's entry in the single European market by the end of 1992. With Sunday's results, he will now have the four years he requested.

Yet most political observers in Spain assume another reason for the early vote was to get elections out of the way before necessary measures to ``cool down'' the country's overheating economy were taken. In addition, individual tax bills for the year have been delayed in the courts over constitutional issues and will not be released until November.

Despite the Socialists' renewed mandate, Sunday's vote could still make steps to slow consumer spending and to rein in inflation more problematic.

Still, some political observers in Spain say that a somewhat less-free hand for Gonz'alez and his party may actually be best for the country's young democracy in the long run.

A more dynamic parliament in which the Socialist Party, accused of arrogance by critics during the campaign, is forced to listen to others more might be positive for the country, if it means a more developed political debate, observers say.

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