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Last Updated: Friday, 7 March 2008, 10:23 GMT
Last push to woo Spanish voters
By Steve Kingstone
BBC News, Madrid

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (L), moderator Olga Viza, and Mariano Rajoy
Despite the smiles the main rivals had a sour TV duel
Spain is in the final day of official campaigning ahead of Sunday's general election, in which the Socialist prime minister is seeking a second term.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has faced questions about the slowing economy.

Inflation is at a 10-year high and unemployment an eight-year high. The Spanish housing boom has faltered.

The conservative opposition Popular Party has also focused on immigration, a bigger issue than in previous polls.

The final opinion polls on Monday gave the Socialists a four-point lead.

Anxiety

The Socialists' parliamentary spokesman Diego Lopez Garrido insists the economic slowdown "is coming from the United States - it's not the fault of Zapatero".

Spanish voters describe whom they are backing, and why

In his campaign ads, PP leader Mariano Rajoy says he feels voters' pain - as food prices rise and growing numbers of Spaniards go without a job.

The conservatives have made a point of making a link between unemployment and immigration - saying fewer jobs will mean more immigrants claiming benefits.

Spain accounts for well over a third of all EU immigration, and the Popular Party is proposing that new arrivals sign a contract with the Spanish state.

PP spokesman Gustavo de Aristegui says "we've designed something that we call the contract of integration".

"What we are asking immigrants to do when they come to Spain is to learn the language. We ask them to abide by the law, exactly the same as any other Spanish citizen. And in return we are going to give you exact same rights."

Political commentators agree that turnout will be a major factor on Sunday.

Four years ago, the Socialists benefited from a late surge in support in the wake of the Madrid train bombings - but historically, the PP has had a more solid core vote.

It is not just a two-horse race. The United Left Party is likely to have a presence in the new parliament, as will Catalan and Basque nationalist parties. And if the main race turns out to be close, these smaller political forces will hold the balance of power.



SEE ALSO
Country profile: Spain
20 Feb 08 |  Country profiles

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