Young Protester Punches PM

Spanish Prime Minister Punched In Face — Youth Angered By Unemployment Rate?

As Spain prepares for general elections this Sunday, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was punched in the face by a young man standing in the crowd at a campaign event Wednesday.

The Prime Minister was making a campaign visit in Pontevedra in Galicia, a town in northwestern Spain, when a 17-year-old pretending to take a selfie, instead jumped at the 60-year-old politician and punched him on the side of the head, the New York Times reported. He was quickly detained. Video of the attack shows police taking chase as the crowd moves to keep Rajoy on his feet in the wake of the assault.

Despite a markedly bruised face and his glasses knocked off, the People’s Party leader quickly reassured his Twitter followers in Spanish that he is fine, and thanked supporters for their concern.

The Socialist party (PSOE) lost to Rajoy’s People’s Party in a sound defeat in 2011, Reuters reported, but Spain quickly plummeted into a recession following the election.

Unemployment rates for youth — like the alleged assailant — in Spain rose to 57.7 percent in 2013, according to International Business Times. Under Rajoy, The Nation reports, the government claimed that 2015 would bring “the greatest reduction of unemployment in Spain’s history,” but youth unemployment remains just under 48 percent, and overall unemployment has stagnated at 21 percent.

Many youth who are employed are degraded by being underemployed, reports Dan Hirschfield on Deutsche Welle. Despite completing university degrees, many young people get their own punch in the face as they are “hired” as interns — unpaid interns.

Some young people don’t believe the government claims that the country’s recession has ended.

“They already have their Bachelors and Masters degrees, and they’re working as waiters and waitresses, if they can,” one woman told Deutsche Welle. “And that’s a lot of unemployment, so I’m not sure I believe those numbers.”

The Economist, reported in April this year that Spain’s unemployment rate is among the worst in the EU.

Rajoy’s literal punch in the face comes on the heels of an emotionally-charged debate Monday, where the opposition candidate threw more than one verbal punch at the incumbent, reported the New York Times.

“…the Prime Minister, Mr. Rajoy, has to be a decent person, and you are not,” Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez said.

The Prime Minister responded confidently that Sanchez is young and impetuous, and will lose the election. But even if he is right, he has more young men to contend with in the near future.


Today two new parties are rising, led by men young in their own right, reports The Nation. Albert Rivera, 36, of Rivera of Ciudadanos (“Citizens”) and Pablo Iglesias, of Podemos (“We Can”), seek to disrupt the current political dialogue in the country and could foreseeably take more than a third of the country’s votes on Sunday.

The current social unrest stands to create a risk more dire than politicians getting a punch in the face, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Rojoy’s conservative Popular Party is opposed by its traditional socialist opponent as well as two populist parties, challenging Spain’s decades-old, two-party system. This threatens a major political shakeup, which may please young political activists in the short term, but also destabilize the country’s economy in the long term.

Could the young man who threw the punch at Wednesday’s political rally be a warning to the Popular Party that its time is up? The country will find out in four days. The Prime Minister’s face will surely heal, but his party may be permanently bruised.

[Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images]