Coup rumors fly fast and furiously on eve of Spain's national elections
One day before national elections, many Spaniards are still wondering whether the elections will actually take place - despite assurances by the government and political parties there is no real possibility of another coup.
Rumors have been growing steadily since last week when the 2,500 Royal Guards of King Juan Carlos were put on maximum alert after an anonymous phone call warning of a coup. When a tank convoy returning from maneuvers rumbled down the highway near the King's Zarzuela residence outside Madrid, orders were given to open fire on the convoy if they came within 100 meters of the gates.
Officially, the incident was termed a false alarm, but political commentators pointed out that the deliberate creation of alarm was all part of the coup plot discovered earlier this month that was to happen Oct. 27. Efforts would be made to confront the Royal Guards and the armed forces, creating an impression of mutual distrust, according to the 500 pages of confiscated coup plans.
Juan Luis Cebrian, editor of Spain's liberal El Pais, wrote in a front-page Sunday article titled ''An Announced Coup'' that ''if people think that the King has sufficient motives to be on alert, then other persons and institutions ought to be on alert as well.'' He added, ''once again the only reference of a secure power is the profile of the crown.''
But the maximum alert at the royal residence was only another incident in the week-long ''war of nerves.'' The switchboards at Spanish newspapers were practically jammed throughout the week with calls of false alarm tank maneuvers. A French radio went as far as to broadcast that Felipe Gonzalez, leader of the Socialist opposition party that is expected to win, had suffered an assassination attempt. Two bombs were in fact deactivated - one near Gonzalez's hotel and another at a sports stadium.
Basque terrorism has also been adding to the tension with almost daily bomb attacks and/or assassinations.
As if the concern over a coup were not enough, a flood in the Valencia region that left 30,000 homeless has also served for uneasy speculation. The King and Queen didn't visit the disaster until several days after it had happened, causing rumors of alarm that perhaps it was considered ''too risky'' to have the King leave the Zarzuela so close to elections. But even more significant has been the genuine fear of the inevitability of a coup attempt, albeit one that will fail. ''When I hear classical music on the radio, I immediately switch to other stations to see if all stations are broadcasting classical music. That would be a sign of a coup,'' said one woman.
The calmest of all amid the coup jitters, is Felipe Gonzalez, who insists that ''a coup isn't viable.'' In answer to a journalist's question, Gonzalez answered, irritated, ''Enough of these coup obsessions. I have enough contacts in the state apparatus to know that nothing really worrisome is happening.''