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ELECTION

Spain’s top three parties tied ahead of December 20th general election

Spain's ruling conservatives are locked in a virtual tie with the main opposition Socialists and new centre-right party Ciudadanos, three weeks ahead of a general election, a poll showed on Sunday.

Spain's top three parties tied ahead of December 20th general election
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and social security minister Fatima Banez at Tomares, close to Sevilla, last Tuesday. Photo: Christina Quicler/AFP
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's Popular Party has 22.7 percent support, Ciudadanos has 22.6 percent and the Socialists have 22.5 percent, meaning no party would be able to secure a parliamentary majority, the poll published in the centre-left daily El Pais showed.
   
New anti-austerity party Podemos had 17.1 percent support, according to the Metroscopia survey of 1,200 eligible voters carried out November 23-25.
   
The “minimal” difference in support for the three top parties “indicates that any of the three formations is in the position, at the moment, to end up imposing itself in the fast approaching final sprint,” Metroscopia president Jose Juan Toharia wrote in the newspaper.
   
“This extreme equality, at such a close distance from the finish line, indicates hat the party that finally imposes itself, will without a doubt, do so by a very narrow margin,” he added.
   
Opinion polls have been highly volatile in recent months as anger over corruption scandals and a prolonged economic crisis fuels the rise of newcomers on the left and right, threatening the traditional dominance of the Popular Party and the Socialists.
   
Rajoy has made economic recovery one of the mainstays of his campaign for re-election in polls on December 20, after Spain in 2014 came out of five years of recession or zero-growth.
   
But much of the Spanish population still does not feel the effects of this recovery and opponents of Rajoy's conservative Popular Party say many of the jobs created are precarious or badly paid.
   
Growth slowed slightly in the third quarter of 2015 to 0.8 percent compared with 1.0 percent in the previous three months while the unemployment rate stood at 21.2 percent, the highest in the eurozone with the exception of Greece.
   
Rajoy has vowed to cut income tax and create two million jobs over the next four years if his party is re-elected.

ELECTION

Madrid puts off separatist talks over Catalan snap election

Spain's central government on Thursday said the announcement of snap elections in Catalonia would delay planned talks between Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the region's separatist leadership.

Madrid puts off separatist talks over Catalan snap election
Catalan regional president Quim Torra (R) meets with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez at the Palacio de Pedralbes in Barcelona on December 20, 2018.Photo: AFP

News that the regional election would be brought forward was announced by regional president Quim Torra on Wednesday but he did not give a date, suggesting some time after mid-March.

The date was brought forward following a major dispute between Catalonia's two ruling separatist parties, Together for Catalonia (JxC) and the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC).

The announcement came ahead of a key February 6 meeting in Barcelona between Torra and Spain's Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to lay the ground for talks on resolving the separatist conflict.

In response, Sanchez's office said the meeting would go ahead but that the negotiations would not begin until a new regional government was in place.   

“The government is hoping to be able to begin the dialogue after the Catalan people have spoken… as soon as the elections are over and there is a new (regional) government, then we will begin talking,” said a statement.

“The government remains willing to start the process of dialogue with the Catalan institutions to resolve the political conflict.”

The talks had been agreed as part of a deal with ERC in exchange for its support in getting Sanchez through a key investiture vote earlier this month.   

But the delay was swiftly denounced by the ERC as a “flagrant breach of the agreement which was completely irresponsible,” its party spokesman Sergi Sabria said.

Sanchez, who himself is in a fragile position at the head of a minority coalition government, still needs ERC's support to pass Spain's own much delayed national budget.

In a radio interview Thursday, Torra said he would bring up the right to self-determination and amnesty for the nine jailed Catalan separatist leaders when he meets Sanchez — both of which have already been rejected out of hand by the Socialist leader.

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