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Greek crisis comes to fore in Spain's elections

Opposition's economy worries branded unpatriotic by ruling Socialist Party

At what point does robust opposition become unpatriotic carping? With campaigning for regional and municipal elections later this month gathering steam, the conservative Popular Party (PP) took advantage of the resurgence of the Greek debt crisis to throw into question Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's handling of the economy.

Under the slogan the "economic authorities warn that the Socialist government seriously harms the health of the Spanish economy," PP leaders on Tuesday pointed to the renewed widening of Spain's risk premium to over 220 basis points, compared with the figure of around 100 prior to the emergence of the Greek crisis in the spring of last year.

"What is happening in Greece affects us a great deal," PP leader Mariano Rajoy told a group of businessmen in the northwestern city of Vigo. "There are a lot of rumors about the restructuring of its debt. This is creating strong tensions in the market, which is affecting Spain."

The PP leader took pains to avoid questioning the financial stability of Spain, as he did a year ago, in an attempt to avoid being accused by the Socialists of putting his party's desire to win office before the interests of the country.

"I am among those who believe Spain will not need a bailout, but all these things make funding difficult," Rajoy said. "The spread has gone to 220 basis points, which is extremely worrying for a country as indebted as ours."

The Socialists' response to Rajoy's renewed interest in the economic situation of Spain as a campaign topic was to revive accusations that the PP was being "unpatriotic." With the PP clearly in the lead in terms of voter intentions ahead of the May 22 ballots, the Socialists' main concern is to try and rally the some 30 percent of voters who have yet to make up their minds over to their side.