Spaniards are going centre-right in polls

Spaniards are going centre-right in polls

The busts of Spain’s Socialist party candidate Alfredo Rubalcaba and Conservative candidate Mariano Rajoy at the Wax Museum in Madrid on Wednesday. AP

Polls point to a crushing win on Sunday for the Popular Party led by Mariano Rajoy — a gangly, uncharismatic man who lost the last two general elections, only barely survived internecine fighting to hold on as party chief and generally has a low popularity rating.

He would inherit a crisis of massive dimensions as bailout fears leapfrog around the eurozone’s fringe, Spain included.

A win for Rajoy, 56, would bring the conservatives back to power after nearly eight years of rule by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who put a patently liberal stamp on traditionally Catholic Spain by legalising gay marriage and ushering in other northern European-style reforms.

But on economic matters Zapatero has been widely criticised as first denying, then reacting late and erratically, to Spain's slice of the global financial crisis and the implosion of a real estate bubble that had fueled Spanish GDP growth robustly for nearly a decade.

Zapatero slumped so badly in popularity that he announced he wouldn’t run for a new term, and former Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba — a veteran figure within the party — emerged as the candidate to succeed him.

Now, unemployment stands at 21.5 per cent and economic growth halted in the third quarter after several quarters of tepid expansion in Spain’s slow recovery from recession.