Zapatero says political tension will boost votes for Socialists
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's behind-the-scenes comment to journalist Iñaki Gabilondo has kicked up a storm of criticism.15 February 2008
MADRID - It was a candid off-the-cuff remark at the end of a lengthy television interview. But José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's behind-the-scenes comment to journalist Iñaki Gabilondo has kicked up a storm of criticism little more than three weeks before Spaniards go to the polls.
Believing that the cameras had stopped rolling at the end of an interview aired by the Cuatro television channel on Monday night, Gabilondo chatted freely with Zapatero and asked the prime minister how he was fairing in the opinion polls. Zapatero responded: "Good, no problems... the only thing is that we benefit if there's tension."
On the back of a legislature scarred by bitter acrimony between Spain's main parties and heightened political tensions, which Zapatero's Socialists have often tried to blame on the opposition, the prime minister's remark, though open to interpretation, has also left him wide open to criticism.
"[Zapatero] has taken off his mask and shown his true face," Popular Party Secretary General Ángel Acebes declared yesterday after the uncut last few minutes of the video were broadcast by other channels. "He has maintained a deliberate strategy of tension and confrontation throughout this legislature, while all the time trying to blame it unjustly on the PP."
United Left leader Gaspar Llamazares said that by raising political tensions, the Socialists could encourage people to stay home on election day.
Zapatero and other government officials, who rallied to his defence, appeared to suggest the opposite is true. They claimed that the prime minister had not meant political tension is good for the party per se but rather that it helps to bring out Socialist voters that may otherwise stay home.
"We need tension surrounding these elections by mobilising citizens and explaining what is at stake on 9 March," Zapatero said. "There are some people who think the Socialist Party will win by a landslide, but nothing is won yet; it will only be won on 9 March."
Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba agreed. He stated that the Socialists need a tense political climate to make their electorate see that "many things we have achieved could be at risk" on election day, given that the PP is currently running just a few points behind in the opinion polls.
Gabilondo, for his part, said he thought the prime minister had been referring to the "usual tensions of an election campaign." He admitted nonetheless that Cuatro had made a mistake in passing the video on to other channels in an uncut state.
[Copyright EL PAÍS / A. EATWELL 2008]
Subject: Spanish news