Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Status Quo

The two top candidates to future prime minister of Spain have just finished their first public debate during this election campaign and I am currently following the analysis of it. All commentators seem focused on the role they play for the parties they support and therefore only give evidence why their candidate won. “Rajoy ha ganado, es tan claro” (Rajoy has won, it is as clear as that), one of them is screaming (he literally is). Well, I am sure that it is obvious to him, but not to me.

The initial polls on newspaper web sites are equally disparate. In Lavanguardia, issued in Catalonia where PP is always weak, a clear majority thinks that Zapatero has won, while in the business newspaper Expansión, Rajoy comes out as the absolute winner.

In the end, it does not matter so much who won, the important thing is that the debate has taken place and that there will be a second round on March 3. An enormous amount of time and energy has been spent on the preparations of formalities about exactly what to discuss and how to design the studio to create a neutral playground.

The candidates can be accused for having interrupted each other, for having focused too much on history or on their own favourite arguments, but they have met and that adds transparency to politics here. Spain is a society so split between left and right, and even more between centralism and regionalism, that it has been fifteen years since this last happened.

“We have asked very clear questions and the other side has not answered any of them.” The comment could have been made by either party.

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