Spanish party leaders in last-gasp bid to woo voters

Party supporters wave flags as Spanish Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez takes to the stage during an election rally on the last day of campaigning, in Madrid. Picture: AP
Party supporters wave flags as Spanish Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez takes to the stage during an election rally on the last day of campaigning, in Madrid. Picture: AP
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Spain’s political parties have ended two weeks of campaigning ahead of tomorrow’s unprecedented repeat election aimed at ending a deadlock that has left the country with a caretaker government after an inconclusive vote in December.

Campaigning finished at midnightwith final rallies by the four main parties: the ruling conservative Popular Party, the Socialists, the far-left Unidos Podemos alliance and the business-friendly and centrist Ciudadanos.

When a conversation is leaked two years after, there is a purpose. What they want is to politically destroy the adversary

JORGE FERNANDEZ DIAZ
SPAIN’S INTERIOR MINISTER

The Popular Party (PP) led by acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy is expected to take the largest share of the vote.

A leftist coalition, Unidos Podemos, should come second, followed by Pedro Sanchez’s Socialists and Ciudadanos, experts predict.

But no party is seen as coming close to an overall majority of seats.

The vote was called after the parties failed to form a new government following December’s inconclusive election.

Since then, the country has been ruled by the PP in a caretaker capacity. But its image has been hit by a string of corruption scandals that emerged while Mr Rajoy was leader.

Spain’s interior minister is facing calls to resign after leaked recordings linked him to an alleged smear campaign against political rivals in Catalonia

Online news outlet Publico published taped conversations between Jorge Fernandez Diaz and the head of Catalonia’s anti-fraud office which appear to show him asking for information to discredit the region’s largest pro-
independence parties.

Mr Diaz confirmed he had met twice in his office with the official, Daniel de Alfonso, but said the recordings were biased and lacked context.

He ruled out resigning and called himself a “victim”.

Mr Alfonso told Spanish radio station that Mr Diaz had “suggested” during their meetings that he make public an investigation into alleged illegal party financing, though without giving him any specific orders.

The leaders of Spain’s three other main parties lined up to demand he step down, saying it was more evidence of misconduct within the ruling PP after a series of corruption scandals involving much of its top brass.

Mr Diaz said he wanted an investigation into how Publico had obtained the recordings. “When a conversation is leaked two years after, there is a purpose. What they want is to politically destroy the adversary,” he said.

The PP has faced a slew of investigations over allegations of misappropriating public funds and influence peddling, which have seen several of its politicians resign.

The PP has denied it has a problem with corruption, saying the cases are isolated and it is tackling them.

In April, acting industry minister Jose Manuel Soria resigned over alleged links to offshore dealings that emerged when he was named in the leaked Panama Papers, which revealed details of thousands of shell firms. He denied any wrongdoing.

The campaign has been marked by a lack of enthusiasm among voters, with abstention predicted to be higher than at the last vote.

With an unemployment rate at 21 per cent, the economy remains the main concern for Spaniards.