Spanish right in Hitler smear row

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The Independent Online

Spain's Conservatives abandoned a pledge to avoid mud-slinging in their electoral campaign this week, with one leading conservative politician comparing Spain's Socialist candidate Jose Luis Zapatero to Adolf Hitler. "Let's not forget that Hitler also won an election and then did what he did," Jose Manuel Molina told party members in Toledo yesterday.

Spain's Conservatives abandoned a pledge to avoid mud-slinging in their electoral campaign this week, with one leading conservative politician comparing Spain's Socialist candidate Jose Luis Zapatero to Adolf Hitler. "Let's not forget that Hitler also won an election and then did what he did," Jose Manuel Molina told party members in Toledo yesterday.

Mr Zapatero demanded Mr Molina's resignation and said a conservative party would stop at nothing to win votes. But Mr Molina denied he had made any comparison. The Popular Party offered no official apology. Its prime ministerial candidate Mariano Rajoy made no mention of the incident.

Mr Molina, the conservatives' highest representative in Castilla la Mancha, made his remark after his party urged candidates in an internal party memo to refer to the Nazi election victory of 1933 in an attempt to persuade voters to go to the polls next Sunday. Opinion surveys suggest that one in four voters may not show up. The memo, among daily so-called "key points" issued by conservative HQ to candidates to guarantee snappy soundbites and adherence to the party line, read: "Thomas Mann once asked himself how the nation of Kant, Goethe and Beethoven could have voted as it did. He concluded that the Germans stayed home on the day of the elections. We Spaniards cannot afford to stay home on the 14th."

One conservative party official, not speaking on behalf of his party, said it had resorted to an "unfortunate" comparison.

The conservatives claim not voting for them will usher in a coalition of socialists, communists, nationalists and separatists who will be soft on terrorism, ruin a buoyant Spanish economy and destroy the constitution. The party's offensive came as polls suggested that it might lose the absolute majority won in 2000 by Jose Maria Aznar.

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