Sat, May 21, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Spain’s election commission seeks protest ban


Spain’s electoral commission late on Thursday called for a ban on street protests this weekend by thousands of people across the country angry over the economic crisis and soaring unemployment.

The Central Electoral Commission (JEC) said demonstrations planned for today and tomorrow, the day when regional and municipal polls are scheduled, are “contrary to electoral legislation.”

The commission is to inform the regional electoral commissions as well as the state attorney general of its decision.

Spanish media said the JEC voted by five votes to four with one abstention in favor of the ban after six-and-a-half hours of deliberations.

Spanish Minsiter of the Interior Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba earlier said the government was awaiting a decision from the JEC to decide whether to order police to disperse the protesters.

However, he said the police are “looking to resolve problems, not create more.”

Young people are camped in main squares across Spain in the largest spontaneous protests since the country plunged into recession after the collapse of a property bubble in 2008.

At the spearhead in Madrid, organizers rallied thousands in the central Puerta del Sol square to decry politicians who left Spain with a 21 percent jobless rate.

Calling for “Real Democracy Now,” the protests popularly known as M-15 began on Sunday lat week, lamenting Spain’s economic crisis, politicians in general, and corruption.

They have vowed to press on with the protests through today, “a day of reflection” ahead of the elections and on voting day itself tomorrow.

“We are not politicians and we are not engaging in political -campaigning,” a spokesman for the organizers, Juan Cobo, said on Thursday, and that they would “respect the electoral process.”

Meanwhile, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero commended the thousands of young people who have taken to the streets, saying they “deserve our respect.”

“It is a peaceful protest that deserves our respect,” he said at a rally in the northern city of La Coruna for the elections.

However, he insisted that any change must come “through voting.”

“While it is hard for young -people today to see the results of the reforms, the results will come,” he said.

Earlier, Zapatero said the government “must listen” to the concerns of the protesters.

“We must be sensitive because there are reasons for expressing this discontent and criticism,” he told the private television channel Telecino. “But after that we need to strengthen, improve like all countries that have achieved higher levels of welfare and which are democratic, with representative democracy and political parties.”

“Do the parties need to improve? Yes, of course,” he added.

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