Sunday, March 14, 2004

In Spain, the Terrorists have Won

It looks like the perpetrators of the Madrid attacks got just what they wanted. The Spanish population seems intent on rolling over and playing dead before terrorists, which is a great pity. A few commentators are rejoicing about this as if it were a great victory, but from a game-theoretical viewpoint, this is just about the worst possible message one can send to those willing to resort to violence for political ends - that terror works.

MADRID, March 14 — Spain's opposition Socialist Party claimed victory in today's general elections over the governing conservative Popular Party.

With 79 percent of the vote counted, the Socialists appeared to have 164 seats in the 350-member Parliament. The Popular Party, which had 183 seats going into the election, apparently wound up with 147.

"The Socialist Party has won the general election," said José Blanco, the party's campaign manager. "It is a clear victory."

Mariano Rajoy, who was running as the Popular Party's candidate for prime minister, conceded defeat, congratulating the Socialists.

Spanish voters streamed to the polls today to decide on the new government three days after a deadly terrorist attack on commuter rail lines that left 200 dead and divided the nation in grief and fury.

Before the bombings, Prime Minister José María Aznar's conservative Popular Party had a slim lead over the Socialist Party in its effort to stay in power for a third term. But the political clash intensified after the attacks, and the government's response prompted angry protests late Saturday night.

Security was heightened on the streets, and leading politicians, including the outgoing prime minister, cast ballots to applause and jeers. Protesters taunted him during a morning appearance with his wife at a local school with the chant: "Your war, our dead," a slogan that others sought to drown out with shouts of "Viva Aznar!"

Those who carried out the outrage in Madrid played their cards just right. The sad thing for the Spaniards is that this show of weakness on their part will only encourage more of the very same violence, now that Spain has been shown to be the soft underbelly of Europe. Cowering in one's territory and forsaking one's allies for fear of offending islamic fundamentalists is no way of going about things. Faced with a choice between shame and war, the Spanish seem to have chosen shame, but they'll get war anyway.