21 January 2004
MADRID – The Government defended a publicity campaign Wednesday which was halted after complaints from the opposition that it was being used unfairly during the run-up to the general election.
The socialist opposition PSOE party complained to the body officiating over the election that a government campaign about freelance workers was being manipulated by the ruling right-wing Popular Party to gain votes.
The government was forced to halt the publicity campaign as Spain prepares for the official start of the campaign for the election on 14 March.
Eduardo Zaplana, Labour and Social Affairs Minister, said he agreed with the decision to halt the campaign.
But he said he believed he “acted correctly” because the campaign describing new benefits for freelance workers and the continuous training programmes “had to be implemented”.
The publicity campaign has now been stopped until after the election.
In an interview on the state-run TVE television station, Zaplana said he felt “these debates are sometimes blown out of proportion”.
He claimed that “what bothers” the PSOE is that freelance workers “know they have the right to new benefits”.
Zaplana said the continuous training system is “completely new”, that it became effective last 1 January, and that companies must know there is a new system they can adopt.
He stressed that the new benefits for free-lance workers became effective on the same day, and since they are optional, workers have to know they exist before registering for them.
Zaplana added that he wanted to concentrate the information about these new benefits from 7 January until the publication in the Official Gazette of the election date.
Meanwhile, Mariano Rajoy, PP leader and prime ministerial candidate, compared the campaign to a cycle race Wednesday.
Rajoy, who is a keen cyclist, promised it was a race against the clock.
The PSOE also complained that the government has used public funds used for advertising campaigns about help for the disabled in campaigns to help its bid to win the election.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news