The Socialist Zapatero government is facing an unexpected hitch in its re-election plans: a downtrodden Spanish economy. The vote March 9 is the first in a big nation in the wake of the world credit crunch, the Economist reports, and it will test the political fallout of a burst housing bubble. The PM’s party is slowly dropping in the polls and now leads the opposition People's Party by only 2 percentage points.
A former strong point for Zapatero—six months back, the economy was growing at 3.8%—finances are now on every Spaniard’s mind, polls show, and there's plenty of buzz about a potential debate between the finance chief and a financial honcho hired by PP. But the conservative PP has snubbed the political center—and its foot-dragging on global warming and other issues may keep the economy from tipping the electoral scales.