Opposition seeks knock-out blow in debate
PP hopes strong performance will overhaul Socialist poll lead3 March 2008
MADRID - Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and conservative opposition leader Mariano Rajoy will lock horns tonight in the second and final televised debate before Sunday's general election, with the former looking to extend a narrow lead in the polls and the latter hoping for a knockout punch to reverse his fortunes.
Having sparred over the current state of the economy, immigration policy and fighting terrorism in the last debate a week ago, the new 10pm encounter is expected to focus more on the future policies of Zapatero's Socialist Party and Rajoy's Popular Party (PP) should they be elected on Sunday. For Rajoy in particular it will represent a major opportunity to close the gap with Zapatero as election day draws near.
According to an opinion poll by Metroscopia consultancy for EL PAÍS, the PP is trailing the Socialists by 4.1 percentage points in voter intent, a wider margin than previous polls had shown but still less than the 4.8-percentage point lead with which Zapatero carried the 2004 election. Turnout, expected at around 74 or 75 percent, would be similar to the last election, with the intensity of the last televised debate and the recent ferocious campaigning by both parties having apparently helped overcome earlier symptoms of voter apathy.
Though neither the Socialists nor the PP look set to take an absolute majority, they do stand to win control of more than 90 percent of Congress between them, confirming a trend toward bipartisanship with most nationalist parties and the United Left expected to lose support in the election.
[Copyright EL PAÍS / A. EATWELL 2008]