By Jason Moore FOR once the opinions polls were right; the socialist party of Prime Minister Rodriguez Zapatero won the elections but fell short of an overall majority. What did come as a bit of surprise for many political commentators was the fact that the Partido Popular of Mariano Rajoy actually increased their share of the vote but it wasn´t enough. About one million votes separate the two big parties with Spain becoming a two-party state, and the smaller nationalists parties in serious decline across the nation, the Balearics included. Zapatero is expected to re-form his coalition government with the support of the depleted nationalists. In otherwords little has changed, Rajoy has probably secured enough votes to keep his job but there will be calls for change within the Partido Popular especially when you take into account that the Spanish economy is faltering and Zapatero was vulnerable on his economic track record and immigration. While it was a pretty average night for the socialists across Spain in the Balearics, they had something to celebrate. For the first time in more than twenty years the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) became the most voted party in the Balearics beating the Partido Popular by just a handful of votes. The Partido Popular lost ground across the islands to the PSOE, led in the islands by the Balearic leader Francesc Antich. It was also a bad night for the nationalist coalition, Unitat, who polled just a few thousand votes. In Palma, the Partido Popular won by just a few thousand votes with the socialists winning in a number of PP-controlled areas, including Calvia. It must be remembered that this was a general election and it has little to do with local elections although there is plenty of food for thought both for the Partido Popular and the smaller nationalist parties. The Partido Popular has still not recovered from the local elections, when they were the most voted party but lost out to the socialist-led coalition. Former Balearic leader Jaume Matas who left the Partido Popular to work in the United States after the local elections returned on Sunday to vote. He has been slammed by some sections of the party for leaving so soon after the local elections.

So we now have another four years of socialist rule in Spain at a time when the storm clouds are gathering across the nation; the economy is showing some rather nasty signs with unemployment increasing and fears over the property market. Zapatero needs to be careful though. The rise of the Partido Popular will not go unnoticed and also he has made a series of promises which he will have to keep. Among them is the age-old problem of finance for the islands from the central government. For the Balearics the coalition government will continue but the nationalists know that they are going to have to work hard to recover their share of the vote.