Spain opposition widens leads


Spain's conservative opposition, the People's Party (PP), has widened its lead against the Socialists (PSOE) ahead of parliamentary elections in November, according to a poll published by El Mundo today.

If the election was held tomorrow, the PP would take 47.8 per cent of the vote while only 31.6 per cent of the electorate would vote for the incumbent Socialists, the poll, conducted by Sigma Dos last week, showed. The PP has lead the PSOE in the Sigma Dos poll since December 2008.

Prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has been in power since 2004 but his popularity has plummeted over his handling of the economic crisis with rising debt financing costs prompting widespread austerity measures.

The economy has been in recession or near stagnant for three years and unemployment has risen to 14-year highs of more than 20 percent, more than double the European Union average.

While the PP is expected to ramp up cost cutting measures and deepen unpopular structural reforms, it has still to produce a definitive manifesto of measures. Analysts say many voters are so keen to replace the Socialists that they will trust leader Mariano Rajoy without fully knowing what he plans.

In the latest opinion poll the conservatives' 16.2 point lead over the Socialists compares to a lead of 15.6 points registered by the same polling company just a week earlier.

The lead would give the conservatives 193 seats in the 350-seat Parliament, a clear majority with the Socialists holding just 122 seats and the remaining 35 seats divided between the smaller regional parties.

Both the Socialists and the conservatives recently held their party political conferences.