The nationally televised debate Monday night between the five leading candidates to become the next president of Spain saw the frontrunner, acting President Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist party (PSOE), attempt to hold his ground against a pummeling from the other four candidates, with the most vehement attacks coming from parties on his right political flank.
Sánchez took a brutal 73 hits during the debate, principally from Albert Rivera, whose centre-right Ciudadanos party has fallen sharply in pre-election polls, and Pablo Casado of the conservative Partido Popular (PP), whose party has risen in the polls to once again position it as the clear leader of the rightwing opposition in Spain’s Congress.
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Sánchez pushed back against both candidates, while both the PP and Ciudadanos candidates also launched attacks on their right-wing rival, Santiago Abascal of the ultra-right VOX party, as all three parties on the right appeared to scramble to convince voters to abandon one of the parties for the other.
Appearing to be trying to retain a presidential air, in between exchanges Sánchez outlined proposals and made pledges that he said he would keep if he manages to put together enough support in Congress after Sunday’s balloting to form Spain’s next government.
Less conflictive were the exchanges between Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias of the leftwing rival Unidas Podemos coalition, who repeatedly invited Sánchez to consider forming a coalition government following the election – the same position held by Iglesias following the last election in April and which proved to be the stumbling block to forming a progressive government led by the PSOE.
In response, Sánchez pointed out the policy differences separating his party and Unidas Podemos that would make it difficult for the two parties to reach a coalition agreement. But, the tone of his exchanges with Iglesias and the fact that polls suggest support from Unidas Podemos will be absolutely necessary if Sánchez is to put together a governing majority, suggest that a post-election pact may yet be in the making.
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