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Spain starts countdown to general election

Spain starts countdown to general election
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The leading figures in Spanish politics have been laying out their stalls at the start of the country’s general election campaign. The opening shots from the sitting Prime Minister, the socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, were aimed at Spain’s economy. He predicted his second term in office would bring up to 2-million new jobs, lowering unemployment to 7 per cent.

Zapatero said: “The economy is working. We have managed the public purse very well. We’ll have closed 2007 with a surplus of more than 2 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.” But inflation at an 11 year high, and a rise in the jobless figure is sure to be seized upon by the opposition.

And indeed, it was the economy which formed the centre-piece of Mariano Rajoy’s election campaign opener. The leader of the conservative Popular Party has already promised to exempt anyone earning less than 16000 euros a year from income tax. Now, he has targetted women voters with what he called a measure of “positive discrimination”. Rajoy said: “We will introduce a further tax reduction, worth up to 1000 euros a year, which will apply to more than 3-million women.”

And there’s a new party. Union, Progress and Democracy, led by the ex-socialist MEP Rosa Diez, aiming to break the two-party politics which has held sway in Spain in recent years.

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