Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy should request a bailout from the European Union now that regional elections are out of the way, said a research institute linked to the country’s employers lobby.
Rajoy cleared one obstacle on the path to a possible rescue when his People’s Party won 41 of the 75 seats in the Galician assembly, in a result the party called a vindication of his austerity policies. The PP lost seats in the Basque Country as nationalists took control of the region.
Victory in his home region shores up Rajoy’s powerbase as he tries to rein in Catalan nationalists pressing for greater independence from Madrid. With his national support waning, Rajoy also faces his second general strike next month as opposition to his austerity program shifts away from the ballot box onto the streets.
“Spain should accept conditions set by the European Central Bank and other European authorities and the sooner the better,” Jose Luis Feito, chairman of Instituto de Estudios Economicos, or IEE, a research institute tied to Spain’s main business lobby, told reporters today. “It’s very difficult to impose substantial cuts in public services that hit living standards, but the longer we wait, the more difficult and drastic it will be.”
A Spanish request for a sovereign lifeline would probably be backed by European governments, French President Francois Hollande said. “It’s up to Spain to make its own application, but we will be supportive,” Hollande told reporters in Paris today after meeting Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.
Rajoy has been mulling a bailout request that would put Europe’s newest crisis-fighting tools to the test in an economy that’s twice the combined size of Greece, Ireland and Portugal. At a summit last week, EU leaders failed to fulfill pledges made in June for greater integration, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed back against demands from France and Spain.
Spanish bonds fell, sending the yield on 10-year debt up 9 basis points to 5.46 percent at 4:29 p.m. Madrid time. Even after a rally last week, Spain still pays 384 basis points more than Germany to borrow for 10 years; the Ibex 35 stock index fell 0.4 percent.
The PP’s gain in Galicia reflected the collapse of its main rivals. The Socialist Party’s 294,000 votes, just over half what it received in 2009, reduced its representation to 18 lawmakers from 25, while the Galician Nationalists’ vote dropped 46 percent as they claimed 7 seats. The PP added three seats from its 2009 levels.
Nationally, support for the PP fell to 37 percent from 45 percent at the November election, a poll by state-run CIS showed on Aug. 6. A Metroscopia poll for the newspaper El Pais last month showed 84 percent of Spanish voters have little or no confidence in Rajoy.
Galicia, run by Alberto Nunez Feijoo since 2009, was one of the first regions to implement an austerity program and had one of the smallest budget deficits last year. Feijoo, seen as a possible successor to Rajoy, coupled cuts in health care with sales of the administration’s luxury cars.
“The steps that we have explained have to be taken to resolve the crisis have had overwhelming support,” Carlos Floriano, the PP’s campaign chief, said in an interview on public broadcaster Radio Nacional de Espana. “There is no precedent in this crisis situation of a government not just defending but increasing its majority.”