For new readers, these municipal and regional elections are important even if you do not live in Spain. The Socialists (PSOE) and Communists (IU) have successfully turned the election into a referendum on the conservative, pro-Anglo-American central government, which has done several unpopular things recently, more or less in order of importance: Spain's stance in the War on Terrorism, the government water plan, the controversy over the Galician oil spill, the decree on education reform, and the problems with the construction of the Madrid-Barcelona TGV line. If the PP, the conservative governing People's Party, wins most of the key races, then we'll be able to say that it hasn't been too badly hurt by all these controversies, and it's still the top dog party. If they lose most of them, then we'll know they're up to their necks in dog doo when Catalan regional elections come around this fall and general elections come around in spring 2004.
Municipal elections, in particular, are considered by Spanish political scientists as trend predictors; if these municipals go to the Socialists, it'll be a strong sign that they're likely to take next year's generals. We saw this trend before the PP takeover in 1996 and before the Socialist takeover in 1982, and we saw it way back in 1931 when very poor results obtained by the monarchist parties caused King Alfonso XIII to leave the country, giving place to the Second Republic.
So if you approve of Spain's international policies, you'd better join me in hoping for a good showing by the PP so that the peacenik Socialists don't take over again.