Spain's right storms towards election victory: polls

13th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Spain's right-leaning opposition will thrash the ruling Socialists in November 20 elections, polls showed Sunday, as anger over an economic crisis spilled into the streets.

The conservative Popular Party, led by 56-year-old Mariano Rajoy, is set for a record parliamentary majority, surveys said.

The Socialists, whose standard bearer is 60-year-old Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, faced their greatest defeat since Spain returned to democracy after the 1975 death of General Francisco Franco, the polls said.

Hundreds of Spain's "indignant" protesters meanwhile poured into the streets of Madrid to protest spending cuts, high unemployment and political corruption, exactly a week before the general election.

"Change the Model Now!" declared a huge banner at the front of the march.

One group brought a cardboard guillotine they said should be used on corrupt or incompetent politicians.

Spain's government is paying the price of an economy that stalled in the third quarter with zero growth and unemployment that soared to 21.52 percent in the same period, the highest in the industrialized world.

In the only televised debate of the campaign, on November 7, Rubalcaba tried to skewer the Popular Party leader, accusing him of hiding plans to cut jobless benefits and financing for healthcare and education.

But Rajoy hammered the government's economic and jobs record, arguing that the best way to protect social welfare was to create jobs and increase tax revenues.

A total 45.4 percent of voters back the Popular Party compared to just 30.9 percent for the Socialists, said a survey of 9,675 people by Metroscopia published Sunday in the centre-left daily El Pais.

That would the give the Popular Party 192-196 lawmakers, an absolute majority of the 350-seat lower house Congress of Deputies.

A poll by Sigma for rival centre-right daily El Mundo was even grimmer for the government, giving 47.6 percent support to the Popular Party and 29.8 percent to the Socialists.

Such a result would deliver 198 seats to the Popular Party.

If the surveys are proved right on election day, the Popular Party would smash its previous record win in 2000 when Jose Maria Aznar took 44.52 percent of the electorate.

Adding to the humiliation, the surveys showed the right winning in the southern Andalusia region, a Socialist bastion for 30 years but among the hardest hit by the crisis.

Spain's Socialists have been in power since 2004 under Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who has decided not to run again, and they now enjoy 169 seats in the lower house compared to 154 for the Popular Party.

Many of the protesters at Sunday's rally said there would be no change in policy if the Popular Party wins as expected.

"The two main parties are the same, they are both chipping away at public services," said Pilar, 46, who helped carry a black cardboard coffin that she said represented the impending death of bipartisan politics in Spain.

Catalan nationalist party Covergence and Union would remain the third force in the parliament after the election, surveys showed, likely increasing their presence from 10 seats to 14, according to the polls published Sunday.

United Left, a coalition of left-wing socialists and greens, would snatch seven seats compared to just two now, the polls showed.

The party is widely believed to have benefited from the "indignant" protest movement, which argues ordinary people are suffering from a crisis caused by big corporations, bankers and corrupt politicians.

The protest movement was born on May 15 when a rally in Madrid's Puerta del Sol square sparked a protest that spread internationally.

The "indignants" rallied tens of thousands in the square on the eve of Spain's May 22 local elections, in which the ruling Socialists were crushed by the Popular Party.

© 2011 AFP

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