MADRID, Spain (AP) — Voters ousted Spain’s
ruling party in elections yesterday, with many saying they were
shaken by bombings in Madrid — and furious with the
government for backing the Iraq war and making their country a
target for al-Qaida.

Ryan Nowak
Cayetano Abad, who was injured in one of the March 11 bomb attacks, casts his vote in the general elections yesterday in a polling station in Madrid. (AP PHOTO)

Also, one of the three Moroccans arrested in the Madrid train
bombings is linked to a suspected al-Qaida member jailed in Spain
for allegedly helping plan the Sept. 11 attack in the United
States, according to court documents.

The Socialist Party declared victory with 79 percent of the
votes counted, as results showed it winning 164 seats in the
350-member parliament and the ruling Popular Party taking 147. The
latter had 183 seats in the outgoing legislature.

“According to the available data, the Socialist Party has
won the general election. It is a clear victory,” said Jose
Blanco, the party’s campaign manager.

Turnout was high at 76 percent. Many voters said
Thursday’s bombings, which killed 200 people and wounded
1,500, were a decisive factor, along with the government’s
much-criticized handling of the initial investigation.

“The Popular Party has made me lose faith in
politics,” said Juan Rigola, 23, a biologist in Barcelona.
“It deserves to lose and to see the Spanish people turn
against them.”

The electorate of 34.5 million included about 1.9 million mostly
young voters added to the rolls since the 2000 general

Until the bombing, the conservative Popular Party was projected
by most polls to beat the Socialists, although perhaps without
retaining their majority in the 350-seat Congress of Deputies.

But the disaster, which the government initially blamed on the
Basque separatist group ETA, threw the election wide open. The
attack was followed by emotional rallies across the country.

Critics accused the government, which had trumpeted its
crackdown on ETA, of manipulating the investigation for political
gain. That struck a chord with voters.

“I didn’t intend to vote, but changed my
mind,” said Javi Martin, 30, who works for a TV station in
Madrid. “And not because of the attacks, but because of the
responsibility of the Popular Party. They gave out information drop
by drop. It would have benefited them if it were ETA.”

Some voters were angry at outgoing Prime Minister Jose Maria
Aznar, accusing him of making Spain a target for Islamic extremists
because of his support for the Iraq war, despite the opposition of
most Spaniards. Aznar sent 1,300 Spanish troops to Iraq after the
conflict and 11 have died.

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