Spain Goes to the Polls Sunday Amid Economic Crisis

The center-right Popular Party expected to win by a wide margin as Spain looks to bolster confidence at home and abroad.

MADRID -- Spain's center-right Popular Party (PP) will most likely sweep the general elections Sunday. The question of a surprise turnaround like in 2004 or whether the PP will secure the coveted 176 parliamentary seats for an absolute majority barely registers with political analysts.

Latest polls show the PP will snag a wide margin of 186 to 198 seats--depending on the media company publishing the poll results. Both are leagues ahead of the incumbent Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), with somewhere between 110 and 126 seats.

On the heels of Greece and Italy's economic turmoil and need for technocrat governments to take the reins, Spanish elections are indicative of how Spain has weathered the crisis better and made austerity measures more convincingly. But the anticipated PP victory speaks more to Spain's economic situation and the need to switch strategies to instill confidence than support for the PP candidate Mariano Rajoy, per se.

"Abroad they don't trust us," Rajoy said Tuesday. "We're going to break through that."

With 20% unemployment--translated to some 5 million jobless--and a new debt interest rate of 7% for 10-year bonds, the highest rate in more than 14 years, whichever party wins has its work cut out for it. Tight budgets and economic finesse must surge consumer and market confidence.

But months before the Occupy Wall Street movement took off in New York City, Spain saw a group of young, disenchanted voters form what its founders called the "15-M" or "Indignants," whose rallying cry is to reject Spanish politics' two-party duopoly and their market-driven interests.

The 15-M movement, which is actually a mosaic of groups of different ilks, found a following with many artists from Spain's film and television industries.

"I think [the 15M movement] is the healthiest and most intelligent thing that has come along in a while," said actor Juan Diego Botto, expressing a sentiment many actors and directors share. "Spanish democracy  should absorb this refreshing impulse."

But while individuals have demonstrated sympathies for the grassroots efforts, industry associations have focused their energies on the promises made during the campaigns.

"The digital canon should not be used for electoral purposes by suggesting its elimination when they all know that European legislation allows it," the association that groups rights management bodies under one umbrella, IBAU said.

The digital canon imposed on the sale of all electronics, CDs, DVDs and MP3s and MP4s has been a controversial issue since its implementation, with supporters saying it pays for private copying and detractors saying it is unconstitutional and confuses the piracy issue. More than 77% of the digital content consumed in Spain in the first half of 2011 was pirated, marking a .4% climb from the same period in the previous year, according to a study released earlier this month by the Coalition of Creators and Industries of Content.

The study, conducted by the Observatory of Piracy and Consumption Habits of Digital Content, estimated the consumption of pirated content cost the music, film, publishing and videogame sectors more than 5.2 billion euros ($7.2 billion) in the first half of 2011--a .3% rise from the same period last year.

Spain's present Culture Minister Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde, an award-winning screenwriter and director, particularly emphasized intellectual property in her tenure. Even so, the Socialist government was only able to pass a watered down version of the so-called anti-download law earlier this yearl, provoking the frustration and indignation of Spanish filmmakers.

While industry insiders call on the government to facilitate prosecution of those infringing rights' holders' property online, the 15M movement vocally protests any constraint on free content.

"Politicians are eager to talk about how they are interested in the youth and job creation for 20-somethings, but they are on the other end of the spectrum from where young people are on so many other issues where they defend corporate interests over voters' interests. For example, Internet is a key component of young people's lives and they make laws in the name of intellectual property that directly affect us," one representative of 15M who asked not to be identified told The Hollywood Reporter.

Another issue interesting the industry is the PP's promise to repeal the license fee private broadcasters are obliged to invest in Spanish film financing.

Presently, private webs like Telecinco and Antena 3 are obligated to invest 5 percent of their revenues in Spanish production and have backed most of Spain's biggest films in recent years.

"It should be the private channels that foment the general audiovisual industry and [pubcaster] RTVE that does so for Spanish cinema," Esteban Gonzalez Pons, the vice-secretary for Communication for the center-right Popular Party said recently.

That would be a game changer for an industry that sees nearly all if its top performers backed by broadcasters.

But perhaps most symbolically, rumor has it that the PP would dismantle the Culture Ministry as part of cost-cutting measures and as a natural evolution of the growing weight of regional governments in culture sectors. The film industry widely rejects the idea.

"For those of us that defend film as art, the disappearance of the Culture Ministry would seem a tragedy," Oscar-winning Spanish director Fernando Trueba told the Spanish daily El Mundo. "Additionally, it would be a depressing symptom of the world they want us to live in."

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