Spanish favour early elections

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Most Spaniards still want early elections, according to two opinion polls published yesterday, the day after the Prime Minister, Felipe Gonzalez, won a parliamentary debate in which he rejected such a demand.

A poll published in the conservative newspaper ABC found that 49 per cent of those who followed the two-day debate on the state of the nation thought the government should bring forward general elections. Some 43 per cent thought Mr Gonzalez should resign.

And in a poll published in yesterday's El Pais newspaper, 44 per cent favoured early elections, 28 per cent of whom would like them to take place within the next few weeks. Forty two per cent in the El Pais poll thought the debate did not reflect the reality of the country.

Mr Gonzalez's victory on Thursday night, achieved with the support of the Catalan nationalist Convergence and Union party, makes it likely he will stay in office for at least another year. But his triumph was soured by the defection of a Socialist MP and former judge, Ventura Perez Marino, who - apparently more in tune with the mood of the country than either the government or the main conservative opposition - broke ranks and called for Mr Gonzalez to resign.

Mr Marino called for a Socialist-led caretaker government that would hold elections early next year. Elections are not scheduled until 1997. Mr Marino was considering yesterday whether to resign his seat. There was speculation he might return to the high court.

The government approved a programme of economic, regional and anti-terrorist policies for the coming year, and defeated by three votes a proposal by the United Left opposition party to launch a parliamentary inquiry into allegations that the government was covering up the activities of death squads against Basque separatists during the 1980s.

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