Rajoy Wins Spanish Debate
Popular Party's Rajoy Considered the Victor in Spanish Debate

The loss of a pre-election debate appears to doom the Spanish Socialists, who are already trailing badly.

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Aryeh ben Hayim,

Mariano Rajoy
Mariano Rajoy

Barack Obama may be in political trouble, but his magical formula of 'we want change' lives on. If the situation is particularly bad, voters tend to cling to this palliative.

This point is being illustrated in Spain, which goes to the polls on November 20. The Popular Party is performing strongly in the polls, to the extent that it is expected to win an outright majority in Parliament without the need for junior coalition partner in the form of a moderate Catalonian party -  as it did in 1996.

Spain is contending with a 22% unemployment figure, surpassing even the 17% jobless rate in Greece..

The ruling Socialists hoped to dent the Popular Party's surge in a television debate where they expected that their standard bearer, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, would best Spanish Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy. It turned out differently, as according to the polls, Rajoy won the debate.

Rubacalba, a former professor, tried to goad his opponent into conceding that he would impose harsh austerity measures on the country, this in the hope that it would scare away voters.

Rajoy contented himself by reading prepared boilerplate and citing the unemployment statistics that had ballooned under the Socialists. Basically he was sitting on his party's lead and was content merely to parry Rubacalba's thrusts.

Rubacalba is being hurt by the lack of enthusiasm among traditional socialist voters. These resent outgoing Prime Minister's Jose Luis Zapatero's austerity policy. Rubacalba's promise to restore the welfare state therefore suffers from a lack of credibility.