Spending cuts hit Spain's Socialists in poll

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Spain's conservative opposition has more than doubled its lead over the ruling Socialists since the government introduced new spending cuts to rein in a budget deficit, according to an opinion poll published yesterday.

Published in leading left-wing newspaper El Pais, the Demoscopia poll showed the Popular Party (PP) has a 9.1 percentage point advantage over Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialists in the national parliament, versus a 4.2 percentage point lead two weeks ago.

Prime Minister Zapatero, who has only a simple majority in parliament, could face harder times mustering support to pass legislation just as he needs to implement urgent measures to counter Spain's deepest recession in 50 years.

However, the poll also showed that the approval rating for the prime minister, at 3.7 points (of 10) was still a notch above PP leader Mariano Rajoy, who got 3.6 points.

"The government is in a very precarious situation ... not because of the new direction announced with these measures but because of his (Zapatero's) obstinacy in sticking to the old direction up to now," El Pais said in an editorial. It warned that neither the main left- nor right-wing parties had provided credible alternatives, and that the crisis had highlighted the lack of prestige of the political class.