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Spanish Voters Punish Incumbent Zapatero

By Alex Berezow

Voters in Spain soundly rejected the center-left Socialist Party led by Prime Minister Jose Zapatero in elections held Sunday. While some Americans may interpret this as Europe’s rejection of leftist policies, the reality is much more complicated.

Europeans are angry and frustrated with the economic and political situation the region faces. In particular, voters feel disenfranchised—mostly because they are. The Parliament of the European Union is the only directly elected body, yet it must share power with several other powerful institutions, none of which are directly elected. Because of this, Europeans feel that they do not have a voice in European policy, as indicated by a recent Eurobarometer poll. More than 60 percent of Europeans believe their voice simply does not matter in Brussels.

Such a belief, combined with the ongoing euro crisis, has led to a deep anti-incumbency movement. Incumbents across Europe, regardless of political affiliation, face defeat. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union has suffered recent electoral defeats. Center-right French President Nicolas Sarkozy would likely lose to Socialist challenger Francois Hollande if the election was held today. And just days ago, Italy’s center-right Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was ousted from power.

The message is clear: Incumbency is a risk factor for electoral defeat. Americans, take note.

Dr. Alex B. Berezow is the editor of RealClearScience.