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Spain goes to the polls this Sunday with the right more divided than ever

Casado, Iglesias, Sánchez and Rivera during Tuesday night’s debate.
Casado, Iglesias, Sánchez and Rivera during Tuesday night’s debate. / Manu Cecilio
  • Debates earlier this week revealed that if PP and Cs gain enough votes to lead the country in a coalition with the help of Vox, a fierce battle for leadership of that coalition is likely to ensue

Spain’s politicians are about to wind up the general election campaign, leaving Spanish voters free to decide on Sunday the palette of the new Congreso, which looks set to be more colourful than ever.

The four main party leaders with hopes to become the next Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez (PSOE), Pablo Casado (PP), Albert Rivera (Cs) and Pablo Iglesias (Unidas Podemos), had the chance to defend their manifestos in two primetime debates this week, on consecutive nights. The second, on Tuesday, attracted an audience of 9.5 million spectators.

Round one on Monday night was a more decorous affair when the four discussed issues such as economy, social policy and the ever-present Catalonia, each defending his own ground without veering too far from the script, while they went back for round two with sharpened swords and had to be reminded not to all talk at the same time on several occasions by the moderators.

The debates, with the candidates together, made it clear that, as well as the fight for the leadership of the country, these elections are also about a fight for the leadership of the right wing.

In the last opinion poll Ciudadanos and the Partido Popular came out very close, giving Cs the hope of Albert Rivera having more of a chance of being prime minister than the PP’s Pablo Casado in the case of a right-wing coalition.

This fierce rivalry between practically committed partners came out in Tuesday’s debate, with Rivera especially agitated in his attacks on both Pablo Casado and Pedro Sánchez.

The rivalry on the left, between Socialist PSOE and Unidos Podemos, also probable coalition partners, was less evident.

The entire election campaign has been marked this year though by the huge appearance of far-right, group Vox. The group’s leader, Santiago Abascal, was not present in the debates in person, but Sunday may show that this was to his advantage as his invisible lectern caught the votes lost by the quarrelling debaters.

The latest CIS opinion poll showed Pedro Sánchez as clear winner by votes, but in need of the help of Unidos Podemos and at least the Basque Nationalists to reach the 198 overall majority. A right-wing coalition, however, would be possible if the PP, Cs and Vox scored enough to control the Congreso.