Spanish parties take election fight to Argentina

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The 300,000 eligible voters living there could play decisive role in close race

22 February 2008

BUENOS AIRES - The image of Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, of the Socialist party (PSOE), is plastered on the railings of the ranches that line the freeway linking Buenos Aires with Mar del Plata. The re-election hopeful also adorns the buses that run the 65 and 134 routes. The face of his electoral opponent, Mariano Rajoy of the Popular Party (PP), can be seen on the lampposts on the Avenida de Mayo, one of the main arteries of the Argentine capital.

As never before, campaign advertising for the Spanish elections has invaded Argentina, which is home to some 300,000 eligible voters - many of them Argentines who have inherited their parents' Spanish nationality. It is the country with the highest number of Spanish emigrants.

"We're putting up Zapatero's image with the help of volunteers," says the general secretary of the PSOE in Argentina, María de lo Ángeles Ruisánchez. The party is making campaign advertisements in 50 small radio stations throughout the country as well. Ruisánchez estimates that of the 300,000 eligible, around 45 to 50 percent will actually vote.

The PP president in Argentina, Avelino García Melle, puts the figure at 260,000 eligible voters, but estimates a similar turnout in percentage terms on election day. He believes that Argentine voters could be influential should the result be close. "Half of the voters are from Galicia, but there are also some from Castilla y León, Madrid, Andalusia, Asturias and Valencia," he says. García Melle is critical of PSOE's campaign strategy in the country.

"The PP is going to execute a traditional campaign, using word of mouth. We can't carry out a massive publicity drive as the PSOE is doing," he says, claiming that the Socialists have even used planes with campaign slogans flying over the city.

"We are advertising in Spanish radio programmes in Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata, and the last week before the elections we'll do something on national radio and perhaps in a newspaper," adds Melle.

And the cost of all this publicity? Neither the PP nor the PSOE are willing to reveal those figures.


Subject: Spanish news

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