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Opinion polls give Spanish premier edge over opposition leader in election debate

Opinion polls give Spanish premier edge over opposition leader in election debate

Opinion polls Tuesday indicated Spain's Socialist Premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero scored a narrow win over conservative opposition leader Mariano Rajoy in their first television debate before next month's elections.
A poll carried out by Metroscopia for left-leaning daily El Pais said 46 percent of people questioned said they thought Zapatero won Monday night's debate against 42 percent for Rajoy. Twelve percent saw it as a draw.
"Zapatero wins by a minimum" was the paper's front-page headline.
In the debate, the two leaders clashed on the economy, Basque separatism and immigration. It was the first pre-election debate between party leaders in 15 years. A second is scheduled for March 3 with elections six days later.
Opposition daily El Mundo's Sigma Dos poll showed a similar assessment of the men's performance with 45.5 percent behind Zapatero compared with 42 percent for Rajoy. Both polls had margins of error of 5 percentage points.
Polls carried out for three private television channels also showed similar scores.
Most surveys before the March 9 election have showed the Socialists with a thin margin over the conservative Popular Party.
Zapatero and Rajoy bombarded viewers with statistics on everything from the price of eggs to funding for university scholarships as they argued over the state of this deeply polarized country.
They interrupted each other often, did a lot of head-shaking and at one point engaged in what verged on a shouting match over failed peace talks with the armed Basque separatist group ETA.
But there were no personal insults, and neither committed a major gaffe or scored a knockout punch.
Rajoy attacked Zapatero repeatedly over his failed peace talks with ETA, saying Zapatero had raised the possibility of making concessions to the group _ a taboo for any Spanish government. Rajoy also assailed Zapatero's recent admission that the government had been in contact with ETA even after it broke a cease-fire in 2006 and killed two people in a car bombing.
"You lied. You fooled all the Spanish people," Rajoy said. "You toyed with the law."
Zapatero hit back, saying, "You were the ones who lied," alluding to the March 2004 terrorist attacks in Madrid, which Rajoy's party _ in power at the time _ initially blamed on ETA, even as evidence of involvement by Islamic extremists emerged.
Spanish voters ousted Rajoy's Popular Party in elections held three days after the attacks, which killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,800.
Zapatero recalled that his first act on taking power was to bring home Spanish peacekeepers sent to Iraq by his predecessor, Jose Maria Aznar, a firm ally of U.S. President George W. Bush.
Rajoy said, "You want people to vote for you because of what happened last time, Bush and the March 11 attack and Iraq."
Zapatero hit away at a favorite theme, that the conservatives have done nothing to support the Socialist government as it tried to end the Basque conflict. He said Rajoy and company have wrongly depicted the Socialists as turning Spain into a country splitting at the seams by tolerating and even encouraging pro-independence fervor in the Basque region and Catalonia.
"You have spent four years denigrating the government of Spain," Zapatero said.


Updated : 2021-05-14 00:48 GMT+08:00