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Spain opposition party's lead narrows vs Socialists

Source: Reuters - Sun 7th Aug 2011

Spain's opposition Popular Party (PP) would win elections in November with a smaller absolute majority than shown in polls taken before last week's announcement of early elections, a survey showed on Sunday.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero brought forward elections to November 20 from Spring 2012, betting that a pick-up in jobs data over the summer will help the Socialists at the polls, or at least help it avoid a PP majority.

But, according to a DYM poll in newspaper ABC, the centre-right PP would gain 47.6% of the vote compared with 35% for the ruling Socialists, giving the PP an absolute majority in parliament. Polls out before Zapatero's announcement gave the opposition a lead of about 14 percentage points.

A minority government of either party would depend on support from regional nationalist parties to pass the budget and make key reforms.

Spain and has moved firmly into investors' sights over concerns that a slow moving economy may knock deficit goals off target and force the country to seek a bailout package, as Ireland and Portugal have done.

Voters remain focussed on the country's close to 21% unemployment rate and lacklustre economy, and Socialists will struggle to win them back after a local election rout in May.

Mostly young protesters, known as 'los indignados', continue to protest in cities across Spain against the government's austerity measures aimed at cutting public debt, high unemployment and the two-party political system that dominates the country. Protests have largely been peaceful.

While the poll showed PP leader Mariano Rajoy firmly in place to win the elections, it also showed Socialist presidency candidate Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba was more popular with voters. Zapatero announced in April he would not run again.

Voters said that Rubalcaba had a greater sense of responsibility, more common sense and more skill than Rajoy, who would win nonetheless because he had a better team.

Rajoy has promised more austerity if he wins the elections, and the government's main priority would remain cutting the public deficit to European Union guidelines.

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