Spanish opposition widens lead over ruling socialists: poll

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Spain's right-wing opposition has widened its lead over the ruling Socialist Party, a poll published Wednesday showed, in a sign that austerity measures are eroding support for the minority government.

The survey by state-financed pollster CIS found that if elections were held now the Popular Party (PP) would capture 41.2 percent of the vote against 34.9 percent for Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist Party.

The difference -- 6.3 percentage points -- is the biggest found by the firm between the two parties since Zapatero came to power in 2004 and it compares with the PP's lead of 1.7 percent in a CIS poll carried out in April.

The poll was carried out among 2,472 people between July 15-22 and it has a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.

In May the government squeezed through a 15-billion-euro (18.5-billion-dollar) austerity plan that aims to shore up Spain's public finances amid investor concerns it could follow Greece into a debt crisis.

The cuts, which included public sector pay cuts, were on top of a 50-billion-euro austerity package introduced in January and they have prompted calls for a general strike in September 29, the first since Zaparero came to power.

The government has vowed to indroduce more austerity measures if needed to bring a public deficit that equalled 11.2 percent of GDP in 2009, the third-highest in the eurozone, to a EU limit of 3.0 percent of GDP by 2013.

With 169 seats in Spain's 350-member assembly, Zapatero's Socialists are seven short of a majority and pass legislation on a vote-by-vote basis with the backing of smaller parties whose support has become increasingly uncertain.

Failure to pass the 2011 budget by the end of the year would probably bring down the government and trigger early elections.

© 2010 AFP

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