Greek Retreat Helps Rajoy Extend Poll Lead Before Spain Election

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s party extended its poll lead going into this year’s general election, shrugging off an anti-austerity challenge as the threat of political and economic contagion from Greece fades.

Support for Rajoy’s People’s Party was 28.2 percent in a quarterly survey by state pollster CIS published Wednesday, up almost 3 percentage points from the last poll for April and ahead of the Socialists, on 24.9 percent. Backing for Podemos, which rallied to the side of Syriza during Greece’s standoff with creditors, slipped to 15.7 percent, down almost a point from the April survey and more than 8 points below the party’s peak in January.

The polling vindicates Rajoy’s attempts to promote himself as the guarantor of economic recovery going into elections due by the end of the year. His bid to win a second term in the face of poor personal approval ratings is benefiting from the decline of Podemos and Ciudadanos, two emerging parties that have shaken up Spanish politics over the past year.

“The PP’s increase is normal on the back of the latest economic data, while Podemos has been hurt by the situation in Greece and how Syriza dealt with it,” said Angel Talavera, an economist with Oxford Economics in London. While the two main parties have reasserted their dominance, neither is close to a majority, “so the key question will be the pacts the different parties agree on after the elections,” he said.

Rajoy has stepped up his drive to convince voters of his credentials to nurture Spain’s recovery by upgrading growth targets, bringing forward tax cuts and pledging more funds for social spending. Even so, unemployment at 22.4 percent remains the second highest in the euro area after Greece.

“We are doing what we promised to the citizens, which is is to get Spain out of the crisis,” said Fernandez Martinez-Maillo, a PP vice-secretary, said in an e-mailed statement commenting on the CIS result.

The CIS survey was taken from July 1 to July 9, meaning it coincided with Rajoy’s July 2 announcement that he would bring forward a second tax cut slated for 2016 and raise the government’s 2015 growth estimate to 3.3 percent.

“The main thing the poll shows is that the main problems of the Spanish people continue to be economic,” Pablo Bustinduy, Podemos’s international relations secretary, said in an e-mailed statement. “That clashes with the triumphalist message a government that’s more and more apart from the people and the real country wants to sell us.”

Support for the Socialists edged up from 24.3 percent in the last CIS poll, while the pro-business Ciudadanos party slipped to 11.1 percent from 13.8 percent.

The CIS survey is an estimate of voting intentions for a hypethetical general election. The margin of error for the poll, which surveyed 2,486 people, was 2 percent.

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