Spanish party leaders jostle for popularity in new multiparty system

The leader of Spain's opposition Socialist party (PSOE), Pedro Sánchez has been voted the country's second most popular politician, beating both incumbent prime minister Mariano Rajoy, and insurgent Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias.

Spain's rigid two party political system has been rocked by the emergence of far left party Podemos, who have gained popularity this year on the back of Spain's economic woes and the backdrop of corruption scandals plaguing both the ruling People's Party (PP) and the PSOE.

However, at last month's municipal elections, no party won an absolute majority in 13 out of 17 regional constituencies, suggesting that they will be forced to make pacts and partnerships if the parliamentary elections, which are expected to be held in autumn, produce similar results.

According to a new poll, despite PP and their stark opponents Podemos dominating topping Spanish polls in February, neither of their leaders were selected as Spain's top three most popular politicians.

Instead, Albert Rivera of the centre-right Ciudadanos party has retained his top spot after topping a similar survey in March, despite his party not possessing a single seat in national parliament.

A Metroscopia poll published in the Sunday edition of national daily El País, which sampled 1,500 Spaniards, revealed that Rivera had the best approval rating, with an receiving an overall rating of +12. Sánchez and his fellow PSOE member Susana Díaz came second and third, with +7 and +5 points respectively.

The poll also found that Sánchez and Rivera were equally as popular among their own party's supporters. Sánchez won +88 approval points from respondents who identified themselves as PSOE supporters, while Rivera won the same number from self-described Ciudadanos voters.

Both politicians officially announced they will be running as their parties' prime ministerial candidates shortly after the poll's results were published.

Spain's fourth most popular politician, according to the poll, was Alberto Garzón, leader of the United Left (IU) party, making him the last individual on the poll to receive a positive approval rating. Garzón earned an approval rating of +4.

Pablo Iglesias, meanwhile, whose dynamic speeches have helped turn Podemos from a protest movement of academics and anti-austerity activists into a genuine political contender, is seemingly not as personally popular as his party.

Although approval from within his own party's supporters was the highest out of any leader polled (+91) the majority of respondents indicated they disapproved of him, giving him an approval rating of -11.

However, Iglesias still did better than the conservative PP's leadership. Deputy prime minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, who often polls as the most popular PP parliamentarian among the general public, was behind Iglesias with a -12 rating.

The clear loser of the poll was PP party leader and prime minister Rajoy who received a -44 approval rating. Adding to his woes was the fact he was found to be less popular than Santamaría with his own party, as she received a rating of +89 from PP voters, while he won only +78 approval.

Earlier this month a similar poll found that 50% of PP voters would prefer for a different candidate,

other than Rajoy to represent their party in the coming elections, with Santamaria being the clear favourite.

Meanwhile speaking about his own party's wobble in popularity, Pablo Iglesias said he believed his party's anti-establishment energy had been portrayed in a negative light and that it was Podemos' aim to correct that.

"I think there are few political actors who have been targeted like we have been," he told El País.