27 February 2004
MADRID – The general election campaign started officially Friday giving Spaniards two weeks to make up their mind which party to vote for.
The two main parties, who have until 12 March to campaign, unveiled their policies.
In reality, all the parties have been campaigning since January when prime minister Jose Maria Aznar named 14 March as the date of the general election.
The two-week campaign was set up as part of the 1978 Constitution. Spaniards then have one day of relfection – 13 March – to choose the party they will vote for before the polls open the day after.
The main issues are expected to be the economy, how much power each party is prepared to give to the regions, Spain’s support for the invasion of Iraq and immigration.
The favourites are still the ruling conservative Popular Party.
A survey in the right-wing La Razon paper published Friday suggested the Popular Party could get 170-171 seats, down from its 2000 election total of 183 and half a dozen seats short of a majority.
The Socialists were expected to seize at least 15 extra seats, up from their current 125.
The United Left was on six or seven and the Catalan Regional Party, CiU, had 11-13.
The Basque Nationalist Party may win nine seats and the Canary Island Coalition, four.
The survey had a margin of error of 3.99 percent, the paper said.
A separate study showed a similar outcome, suggesting the Popular Party would win a maximum of 172 seats, and the socialists up to 144.
Mariano Rajoy. priministerial candidate of the Popular Party, asked Spaniards to think of the “optimism and hope for the future” to make an “open, tolerant, free, prosperous Spain”.
Rajoy added: “We can hope and we don’t want to lose this.”
In a speech in front of 15,000 supporters in Santiago de Compostela, Rajoy said his only worry was that one day “I can ask myself and my son if I did something to make a better Spain”.
Meanwhile, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, leader of the main socialist PSOE opposition party, kicked off his campaign.
In a rally in front of supporters, Zapatero said his party would concentrate on trying to stop domestic violence – an important issue – as well as improving the standard of public education.
He also said his party, if elected, would repair relations with Germany and France in order to construct a European Constitution.
Gaspar Llamazares, leader of the left-wing IU party, said the PP should look out because the voters “are going to give the conservative party a lesson”.
He added that Spaniards “are not going to believe your propaganda”.
He said that the IU campaign “would be run by people who are not scornful of any voters – as the PP is”.
Josep Lluís Carod-Rovira, leader of the left-wing Catalan nationalist ERC party, said voters should try for a “change in the regime” in Spain and be “the David who had beaten Goliath”.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news