PRIME Minister Mariano Rajoy was represented by an empty chair in scenes reminiscent of Roy Hattersley’s notorious no-show on ‘Have I Got News for You’ as his three main opposition rivals took to the stage for a passionate debate ahead of December’s general election.
El Pais, hosting the debate, didn’t go quite so far as to mock Rajoy’s absence but his absence was certainly conspicuous and immediately attacked as weakness and arrogance by those battling to be his successor.
The debate took place on the evening of Monday November 30 and was historic as the first to be broadcast online and to allow questions directly from the audience. Millions watched live and the debate itself was hailed as a breakthrough in political communication from the restrictive and stuffy nature of past campaigns.
Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Party, Albert Rivera of Ciudadanos, and Pablo Iglesias of Podemos, all staked their parties claims to champion the best policies on a range of key issues from democratic and welfare reform, to military action and corruption.
Iglesias was a clear winner according to votes registered with El Pais, though this might also reflect his dominant 1.3 million Twitter following. Young and urban voters were likely to participate strongly in the new format, which is also posited as an explanation for Rajoy’s absence, as the PP fare badly among this class.
Voters will go to the polls on December 20 with candidates aware their performance in this debate and others will be pivotal to success amid volatile opinion polls that have suggested a three-way split between Rajoy’s PP, the Socialists and emergent centre-right party Ciudadanos.