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Spain opposition widens lead over government

Source: Reuters - Sun 2th Jan 2011

Spain's opposition conservatives have widened their lead over the ruling Socialists to over 18 points amid a weakening economy and high unemployment, a poll published on Sunday showed.

The poll from Sigma Dos also showed strong backing for Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, who some analysts believe could lead the Socialists into the next election in place of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Published in right-leaning newspaper El Mundo, the survey showed support for the opposition Popular Party (PP) at 48.7 % versus 46.4 % in October, and backing for the Socialists down to 30.3 % from 33.8 % in the previous poll.

Zapatero has implemented hugely unpopular austerity measures to convince financial markets that a yawning public deficit is under control, but the political cost has been high, leading to talk he will not stand as the candidate for his party in the next general election due by May 2012.

Rubalcaba, who is also interior minister, is considered the most likely candidate to replace Zapatero as head of the party and the poll showed that he enjoys the highest rating of any minister or political party leader.

On a scale of 1 to 10, Rubalcaba scored 5.64 in the poll, making him the only politicians to score above the 5 point threshold.

Sunday's poll compares with a Metroscopia poll in left-leaning El Pais at the start of December which gave the PP 43.2 % of the vote against 24.3 % for the Socialists, doubling their lead versus one month earlier.

The Sigma Dos survey was carried out after an early December wildcat strike by air traffic controllers protesting against changes to their generous working conditions.

The government's tough response to the strike was widely applauded, although that does not appear to have helped the Socialists in the survey.

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