THE SPANISH ELECTIONS….Just time for a quick note on the Spanish elections. Although Jose Maria Aznar’s PP party was ahead until recently, it looks like the Socialists have come from behind to win. Why?

  1. If it was simply a show of displeasure with Aznar’s support of the Iraq war, it doesn’t mean much except that the voters threw him out because they didn’t like his policies. Not a big deal, really. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem likely since PP was ahead until just a few days ago and the Socialists only surged ahead after Thursday’s bombings.

  2. Evidence has also been piling up that it really was al-Qaeda behind the bombings, not ETA. So another possibility is that the voters (or at least some of them) were upset that Aznar’s support for the Iraq war was responsible for al-Qaeda targeting Spain, which seems to be the theme of this Washington Post story. This would be a considerable victory for al-Qaeda and would reflect very poorly indeed on the Spanish electorate. It also doesn’t smell right to me.

  3. The third possibility is that the electorate was upset with Aznar because they thought he was playing politics with the bombings by insisting ETA was responsible even as the evidence mounted that al-Qaeda was behind it. If it turns out that Aznar was indeed doing this, then he simply got what he deserved.

For now, my suspicion is that there’s a little bit of #2 and a lot of #3. I don’t have any special evidence for this, but it’s my gut feeling at the moment.

UPDATE: In comments, lots of people are asking why I think #2 would be a victory for al-Qaeda. Sorry, I thought that was obvious.

The goal of terrorism is to affect public opinion and to scare people into not opposing the terrorists’ aims. If (if!) the Spanish electorate was punishing Aznar solely because they perceived his actions as being anti-terrorist enough to provoke an al-Qaeda attack, the terrorists have accomplished their goal: the Spanish public has shown that if they are attacked they will vote against a politician who strongly opposed the terrorists.

Remember, this is all about perceptions and it’s all hypothetical. But if (if!) it’s true it gives al-Qaeda reason to think that they can affect elections simply by committing a terrorist attack. Sounds like a victory to me.