STAFF REPORTER

MADRID
THE chief opposition party in the Spanish government, the Partido Popular (PP) has increased its lead by 3.3 percent in popularity polls over the ruling Socialists (PSOE) said the centre for social and economic studies (CIS) yesterday.

The results of this most recent survey, where the PP would clinch 41 percent of the vote and the Socialists 37.7 were an election to be held today, were confirmed despite a number of damaging corruption scandals which have dogged the PP nationwide. It is only the second time since 2004 when current Socialist prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero took power, that the PP have shown themselves to be gaining ground. The first time was in July this year, when another CIS poll showed the PP to have the edge on the Socialists by just 1 percent.

The difference in voter confidence as of today's date is the result of a rise of 8 percent by the PP on the CIS' October barometer combined with a fall in the Socialist camp of 1.3 percent. The survey will come as welcoming relief for Opposition leader Mariano Rajoy, who, confronted with accusations of uninspiring leadership is being forced into a position where he will have to take a hard line to put his own house in order. Not only is his party being thrust into an unwelcome limelight following the deeply damaging so-called “Gürtel” property business scandal, but he is also having to cope with internal divisions triggered by a power struggle for the control of banking giant Caja Madrid. The survey, however, taken in the second week of October, predated further trouble in the PP camp when Rajoy's number one man in the key region of Valencia, PP General Secretary Ricardo Costa was linked to the “Gürtel” scandal and stepped down.

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