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BALEARIC president Jaume Matas yesterday threw down the gauntlet to the leader of the opposition, Francesc Antich, and challenged him to a live political debate.

With the May local elections looming and the parties on the eve of swinging into full-blooded election campaigning, Matas, who dislodged Antich at the last elections to restore the Partido Popular to power, said a “face-to-face” debate would be a “magnificent” opportunity for the Socialist party to publically reveal its stance and policies on the environment, housing, education, and health.

Matas challenged Antich during an interview with Majorcan television channel M7 and explained that a political face-off, similar to the U.S. presidential television debates, would send out the right message to the electorate, that democracy is at work. “I hope the election campaign does not get poisoned by insults and irrelevant issues,” Matas said yesterday. “The moment is coming for the electorate to compare what we have achieved over the past four years with what the left-wing coalition (led by PSIB socialist party boss Francesc Antich) did during the previous government,” Matas added. “No one can question the fact that we have worked hard,” he said. “There have been mistakes, but there is no hiding all we have achieved.” The Balearic president was, however, forced to admit that the Andratx planning scandal has been a blot on the current legislature. “It was our worst moment,” he said. “It was a set back and one has to accept one's responsibilities, but it is extremely unfair that a case like this is used to cloud the merits of all the hard work carried out by so many people. “However, I can not deny that the Andratx case has affected us and it is only logical that the opposition try to capitalise on it,” Matas added.
The challenge comes just a few days after one of Spain's national channels announced that members of the public are going to get the chance to put their questions live and direct to the Spanish prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, and the leader of the PP, Mariano Rajoy, in two live television programmes similar to ones recently carried out in France.