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Spain's Socialists to lose key regions in May vote

Source: Reuters - Sun 24th Apr 2011

Spain's Socialists are set to lose a May election in all of the regions where it currently governs, paying the price for high unemployment and an unpopular austerity drive, a poll published Sunday showed.

The conservative Popular Party (PP) would win with an absolute majority in Socialist regions Castille-La Mancha, the Balearic Islands and Cantabria, the Sigma Dos poll in right-leaning newspaper El Mundo showed.

It would also be close to an absolute majority in Extremadura, ruled by the Socialists for 28 years.

The parliamentary vote in 13 of Spain's 17 regions coincides with municipal elections in much of the country on May 22, and will be read as a test of the government's mettle ahead of a general election due by March 2012.

The telephone poll surveyed 500 people, and did not discuss regions such as Valencia or Madrid, currently under PP rule.

The PP's overall lead over the Socialists in the national parliament has halved to 7 to 8 percentage points since Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said he would not run for a third term, according to a Sigma Dos poll published earlier this month in the same newspaper.

The Socialists' popularity has been hammered as the combination of 20% unemployment and high personal debt levels have taken their toll on Spanish families.

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