Aznar puts Gonzalez on defensive: Second television debate in Spanish election campaign falls flat

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The Independent Online
IT WAS billed as 'the Decisive Debate'. With all respect to Spain's national pastime, that was a distinct case of mierda de toros. If television debates are what it is all about, Spain's Prime Minister, Felipe Gonzalez, was taking another beating last night from his main opposition, the Conservative Party leader Jose Maria Aznar.

The trouble for Mr Gonzalez is that Mr Aznar, if TV debates are what it is all about, has had him tied up in knots. The Prime Minister, who was reckoned to have lost last week's live television debate with Mr Aznar, was immediately caught on the hop last night when Mr Aznar stepped into a higher gear.

'We propose a shock plan to create employment,' the opposition leader said.

Mr Gonzalez later suggested a similar idea, but Mr Aznar appeared to have grabbed the high moral ground, from the public relations point of view.

Mr Gonzalez, who has been highly criticised by his own party for his tepid performance in the first leg of the TV debate, came out fighting, at least on his terms. But Mr Aznar appeared to be ready for the onslaught and, halfway through the debate, Mr Aznar appeared to be ahead.

Mr Gonzalez began more aggressively but was quickly put down by his opponent, who raised his voice and threw the Prime Minister on to the defensive with his reference to job creation. The opposition leader insistently referred to his debate opponent as Senor Gonzalez.

The Prime Minister appeared to respond by constantly referring to his opponent as 'Senor Aznar'.

The fact that the Prime Minister used the same address was seen as a sign that Mr Gonzalez was increasingly frustrated.

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