From the left: Mariano Rajoy, Pedro Sánchez, Albert Rivera and Pablo Iglesias. | Mariscal


With Spain's general election taking place in under two weeks time, the candidates for prime minister from the four leading parties took part in a live television debate on Monday evening in which corruption was a key theme.

Lined up were the acting prime minister, the Partido Popular's Mariano Rajoy, and the general-secretaries of PSOE and Podemos, Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias, and the president of Ciudadanos (C's), Albert Rivera.

Iglesias and Rivera have both made corruption key parts of their respective parties' growth in popularity, and Iglesias attacked both the PP and PSOE, drawing attention to the "ERE" case in Andalusia, governed by PSOE, which relates to allegedly fraudulent redundancy payments. Sánchez hit back by referring to the ways in which prominent Podemos figures - Juan Carlos Monedero and Iñigo Errejón - have been implicated in certain cases.

Sánchez reserved most of his attention, though, for the PP, saying that regeneration in Spain can only occur if the PP ceases to govern. He referred to the so-called B accounts case and alleged black payments by the former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas as well as to a text message sent by Mariano Rajoy to Bárcenas at the time this case blew up. In it Rajoy had told Bárcenas to stay strong. Sánchez argued that Rajoy should have resigned.

Rajoy responded by highlighting the Andalusia ERE affair and the measures that the PP has taken to tackle corruption within the party.

Albert Rivera described the attacks between Rajoy and Sánchez as being typical of the "old parties" and said that, when it comes to democratic regeneration, the public cannot trust the PP. He also pointed to a recent survey which showed that even PP voters would prefer it if Rajoy were to stand down.

Iglesias was at his most spiky when Rivera drew attention to allegations that Podemos has been financed by the Venezuelan government. This, said Iglesias, was a false accusation and one of an offence of illegal financing that should have no place in a debate for candidates for prime minister.

The general view of the candidates' performance was that Rajoy had done well when sticking to economic affairs but was rattled by all the attacks regarding corruption. Sánchez, it was felt, had missed a big opportunity, and was considered to have put in the weakest performance.