Madrid.—Abstention among Spanish voters, unhappy with public spending cuts and high unemployment, is likely to hand major gains to the opposition centre-right Popular Party in local elections this month.

The May 22 vote is a taste of what may be to come in 2012 general elections for Spain's minority government, staggering to the end of a second four-year term marked by the worst recession in half a century and the threat of a euro zone debt crisis. “I want to vote, but none of the options appeals to me,” said Layla Amoedo, a 38-year-old teacher in Seville, capital of Andalusia, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country at 30 percent, compared with a national rate of 21 percent.

The PP is likely to take Spain's fourth biggest city, Seville, after 12 years under the Socialists, polls show, leaving the Socialists without a single one of the country's four major cities, home to 14 percent of the population.

Many voters are fed up with politicians in general as corruption scandals have hit both the Socialists and the PP.
Manuel Chaves, president of the Socialist party and third deputy prime minister, has been accused of giving preferential contracts to companies owned by family members.

Meanwhile Valencia's PP Governor Francisco Camps is accused of accepting thousands of euros of designer suits in return for public works contracts.
However, the Socialists are more likely than the PP to be affected by voters staying away, analysts say, and Camps is set to be reelected even though 49 percent of voters disapprove of the job he has done, a recent Metroscopia poll found.

On Sunday protestors from the Real Democracy Now movement occupied squares in more than 50 cities, calling on voters to reject the two big parties as a protest against joblessness.

Socialist supporters are convinced the Popular Party will win, and their vote will be wasted, he added.
Spaniards are dealing with the hangover from a property bubble that burst over three years ago, leaving them with some of the highest personal debt levels in Europe and an unemployment rate twice the euro zone average. Abstention was 36 percent in 2007 regional elections. At that time, 38 percent of Spaniards saw the political situation as bad or very bad. That has now risen to 66 percent of voters.

The Socialists admit they could have done some things better, but are focusing their campaign on getting out the vote and warning the centre-right could roll back social benefits.

Polls show the Socialists stand to lose strongholds like the large central region of Castilla-La Mancha, further weakening Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's government.

Spain's No. 2 city Barcelona is set to fall to the centre-right Catalonian nationalists CiU, polls showed on Sunday, ending 32 years of Socialist power.

It is the capital of the region of Catalonia with an economy the size of Portugal.