Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Spanish PM, opposition leader to square off in high-stakes election debate

Spanish PM, opposition leader to square off in high-stakes election debate

Spain's prime minister and the opposition leader were to square off Monday night in a rare televised election debate, a potential turning point in a race that shows their parties in a dead heat.
Millions of Spaniards were expected to watch Socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero defend his record _ one of sweeping social change including legalization of gay marriage, failed peace talks with Basque separatist gunmen and a once-booming economy now starting to cool _ as he takes on conservative Mariano Rajoy.
The debate, the first among candidates for Spanish prime minister since 1993, is seen as hugely important because the two men's parties are neck-and-neck before March 9 voting.
A Metroscopia poll published Sunday in the newspaper El Pais gave Zapatero's party a 3.7 percentage point lead over Rajoy's Popular Party, but the margin of error was 4.1 points, meaning statistically they are tied.
Twelve percent of those questioned said the debate outcome might determine which party they vote for, according to the survey.
With so much at stake, the parties have left nothing to chance: the debate has been as painstakingly choreographed as the Oscars.
Strict rules were established as to who sits where on the stage, who speaks first and who speaks last, how long cameras can focus on either and from what angle, all of this in an auditorium with no audience.
The two parties argued for weeks about which television channel would broadcast the event, before deciding it would be state-run TV but with a signal any broadcaster can pick up. They also bickered on who the moderator would be. A second debate is scheduled for March 3.
Among other preparatory exercises, Zapatero has watched footage of the last such encounters in Spain _ between then socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez and conservative challenger Jose Maria Aznar in 1993 _ and between Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royale last year in France.
Zapatero told the newspaper Publico on Sunday that debates can influence the result of an election to some extent, but not clinch it one way or the other.
"There is never a knockout punch. I will settle for a draw," Zapatero said.
Rajoy was expected to assail the prime minister on his handling of the failed peace process with the Basque separatist group ETA, including his recent admission of contacts with the group even after it ended a cease-fire with a deadly car bombing in 2006. The government had said all such dialogue was over.
"Spaniards should receive an apology from the one who deceived them," Rajoy told a rally Sunday.


Updated : 2021-06-25 12:02 GMT+08:00