Sánchez, opposition leader, clash in first pre-election TV debate;

Sánchez, opposition leader, clash in first pre-election TV debate; | INFBusiness.com

Spain’s acting Prime Minister and socialist leader, Pedro Sánchez, and the leader of Partido Popular, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, clashed Monday night in a tense and tough debate with constant reproaches between the two just a few weeks before general elections.

The socialist leader (PSOE/S&D) was very nervous and tense throughout the debate, which began at 22.00 and ended at midnight on Monday, EURACTIV´s partner EFE reported.

Núñez Feijóo, the leader of the Popular Party (PP/EPP), was much more serene and calm than his Socialist opponent. “I suggest you calm down,” he told the Socialist leader several times.

There were many points of controversy between the two, in particular on questions of the economy, women’s rights and the fact that the PP could reach with the far-right Vox party (ECR) if it does not obtain an absolute majority (of 176 seats out of a total of 350) on 23 July.

At the end of the first 45 minutes, both leaders interrupted several times, accusing each other of not telling the truth, and complained to the debate moderators because one would not let the other speak to make his case.

“Let me speak”, “It’s not true”, “Will you let me speak?” Sánchez told on many occasions Núñez Feijóo, who also complained about the same “interruptions” by his political opponent.

Neither hell nor economic paradise

Faced with an economic outlook that the PP leader described as “disastrous”, Sánchez recalled that in recent years employment in Spain has grown “like never before” to almost 21 million people employed.

On the other hand, Sánchez said, inflation has fallen below 2%. Spain is “controlling inflation like no other European economy”, the Socialist leader stressed.

The PP leader attacked Sánchez for the latest 30% increase in food prices, “increasingly expensive” mortgages, 42% tax rises and that Spain was among the last European countries to recover its GDP compared with pre-pandemic levels.

“He (Sánchez) has the economic policy of the populism of Unidas Podemos (with which the PSOE has governed in coalition the economic policy of the Communist Party, that of `Sanchismo’ (Sánchez’s way of governing) and a small dose of the Socialist Party,” Núñez Feijóo stressed.

Gentlemen’s agreement

One of the most controversial points of the debate came when the PP leader pledged to facilitate Sánchez’s investiture if the PSOE is the most voted list.

“If he is the candidate with the most votes, I will abstain,” said Núñez Feijóo.

The PP leader made this proposal so that Sánchez would commit to allowing the PP to govern if the centre-right party wins the elections, an “offer” to which the head of the Spanish government responded ironically and vaguely.

Controversy with Vox’s sexist policies

Another controversial point of the heated debate, the only one exclusively between the two leaders before the elections, was PP’s recent pacts with Vox at regional and municipal level and the sexist policies of the far-right party.

Sánchez accused the PP candidate of “knowingly” making a pact with a “sexist” party, while the PP leader blamed him for the controversial “only yes means yes” law, for which he assured that Sánchez “will go down in history”.

Núñez Feijóo said that the “only yes means yes” law – approved by the coalition government (PSOE-Unidas Podemos) and subsequently modified – has put 117 “sexist rapists” on the streets and benefited paedophiles.

“A legal error is corrected because it is an error, but the sexism (of Vox), a knowingly sexist or xenophobic statement, is not an error, it is something else,” Sánchez replied.

Controversial support from Basque separatist party

Núñez Feijóo recalled the PP councillor Miguel Ángel Blanco, kidnapped and murdered by the terrorist group ETA 26 years ago, and rejected outright Sánchez’s criticism of the PP’s recent pacts in several autonomous communities following the regional elections of 28 May.

The PP candidate, who described the Basque separatist party EH Bildu, on which the PSOE has relied to approve a few laws, as the “political arm” of ETA, stressed that Sánchez “cannot give any lesson on pacts”.

“We do not govern with EH Bildu (as the PP claims), you do govern with Vox (in several autonomous communities)”, said Sánchez, who then posed a question to his opponent: “Mr Feijóo, do you sleep well?”

(Fernando Heller | EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)

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