27 February 2008
MADRID – The first televised, one-on-one debate in 15 years between an incumbent prime minister and an opposition leader ended just before midnight on Monday, but yesterday the tense encounter between Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and conservative rival Mariano Rajoy continued to provoke sharp reactions from their respective parties.
Though opinion polls conducted among the record 13 million viewers of the 90-minute debate handed Zapatero a narrow victory, both the Socialist Party and the Popular Party declared that their leaders had outshone the other. They also claimed that their performances would help propel them to victory in the general election on 9 March.
"[Rajoy] has shown his authoritarian and antisocial streak that shows he is unable to govern Spain," Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba charged over the opposition leader’s acerbic attacks against Zapatero’s counterterrorism and economic policy.
Conversely, PP representatives appeared convinced that Rajoy was the more "solid" of the two candidates. "He proved himself to be a man you would buy a used car from," Manuel Pizarro, the PP’s number two on the list for Congress, said.
[Copyright El Pais 2008]