Spain's opposition chief 'wins' TV debate: polls

8th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Spain's opposition leader Mariano Rajoy won a scrappy televised debate with his Socialist party foe, polls showed Tuesday, confirming him as runaway favourite for November 20 elections.

Rajoy was already poised for a landslide victory over ruling party candidate Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, surveys showed.

In the only face-to-face encounter of the campaign, the conservative Popular Party leader managed to hammer Rubalcaba over the economic crisis and a jobless rate that hit a 15-year record 21.52 percent in the third quarter.

Among television viewers polled by Sigma Dos for the centre-right daily El Mundo, 51.4 percent thought Rajoy emerged victor of the duel while 44.2 percent said the Socialist won.

A survey by Metroscopia for the centre-left daily El Pais found 46 percent of respondents believed Rajoy had won the debate while 41 percent gave the battle to Rubalcaba.

"Rajoy wins by narrow margin," El Pais said in its front headline the morning after the debate.

In a feisty, free-flowing duel, seen by 12 million viewers according to Kantar Media figures, the pair accused each other of lying and interrupted each other repeatedly.

Rubalcaba, 60, tried to skewer the Popular Party leader, accusing him of hiding plans to cut jobless benefits and financing for healthcare and education.

But the 56-year-old Rajoy struck back, hammering the government's economic and jobs record and arguing that the best way to protect social welfare was to create jobs and increase tax revenues.

"I think Spain needs a change and needs it urgently," he said.

Several newspapers said Rubalcaba seemed to believe Rajoy's election victory was already certain, using words such as "will" instead of "would" when accusing him of planning harmful policies in government.

"Rubalcaba takes for granted that Rajoy will win the elections," headlined El Mundo.

The conservative daily ABC agreed.

"Rubalcaba treats Rajoy as prime minister," ABC said. "The PP leader outplays a Socialist candidate who limited himself to examining him as if it was the investiture debate."

Rubalcaba, a former interior minister and deputy prime minister, is leading the Socialists' fight after Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero decided he would bow out after nearly eight years in power.

He acknowledged that Spain was undergoing a "deep crisis" but argued that the faltering economy required more than just austerity measures to rein in the public deficit.

"We have put the patient on a diet and we have gone too far and are giving him anaemia. You don't cure anaemia with a diet but with vitamins," Rubalcaba said.

An overwhelming 46.60 percent of people in a major survey released Friday said they supported the Popular Party compared to 29.91 percent for the Socialists.

That would give Rajoy's party an unprecedented 190-195 of the 350 seats in the lower house of parliament, said the poll of 17,500 by the Centre for Sociological Investigation.

The Socialists would get just 116-121 seats, it said.

Many people blame the Socialists for reacting too slowly after the economy slumped into recession in 2008, battered by a global financial meltdown and a property bubble collapse, which threw millions out of work.

© 2011 AFP

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