Aznar wants a leading role in general election
7 November 2007, MADRID - The fact that Jose María Aznar has just published a book of right-wing musings entitled 'Letters to a Young Spaniard' has been interpreted in the Popular Party (PP) as a message that if Mariano Rajoy loses the elections in March, the ex-prime minister will demand to steer the party through its crisis.
7 November 2007
MADRID - The fact that Jose María Aznar has just published a book of right-wing musings entitled 'Letters to a Young Spaniard' has been interpreted in the Popular Party (PP) as a message that if Mariano Rajoy loses the elections in March, the ex-prime minister will demand to steer the party through its crisis.
"Aznar will not be sitting on the sidelines. It is clear he will wield influence, and that he wants to run things again," says a PP leader close to Rajoy.
It is not a question of Aznar returning to official politics.
"He is very satisfied with his private activities. But he has made it known that, when the time comes, he will demand direct participation in any succession process. He talks not so much about concrete individuals, as about the ideas they will have to defend, which must go on being part of the essence of the PP," says the same source.
"Whatever happens, but especially if the result is bad, he will not consent to an internal succession process based on any radical change of strategy. He seems to want a pact with the possible successor to Rajoy on the basic lines of policy."
And what about Aznar's wife, Ana Botella, close to both the major aspirants, Alberto Ruíz-Gallardón and Esperanza Aguirre? "Ana Botella is staying on good terms with both of them, but isn't taking sides."
For the moment, Rajoy's main concern is to calm the growing malaise in the party over his refusal to publicly present a team of four or five people as his "government nucleus." Many PP leaders, national and regional, feel that Rajoy has let too much time go by without taking this step.
Some of his advisors think that Rajoy ought to bring in some new figures from the legal and economic world. Last weekend he called a meeting of PP leaders in Barcelona to talk about specific aspects of the electoral program.
"Once more, it was the same people - spokesmen, assistant spokesmen, local leaders. We all know each other. But we need figures with a more substantial public image, and fast," said one of those present. As always, the main worry, openly admitted, is the weakness in the economic field. Rajoy's refusal to come up with names is causing PP leaders to wonder.
On the other side of the political fence, in the government and the Socialist Party, most leaders express reasonable confidence about winning the next elections. What seems to worry them most is not the victory in itself, as the extent of that win.
Few deny that the next legislature will be complicated, with the implementation of the new regional statutes and the need to reactivate certain important institutions such as the Constitutional Court and the General Council of the Judiciary, which are now paralyzed and discredited due to factional rivalries.
The idea of having to form a minority government, once again supported by the regional nationalists, looks like an uphill road to some. "Another legislature spent haggling all the time about regional government powers may be completely exhausting," says one regional leader, who admits he is unenthusiastic about further demands for regional power.
For him the best case scenario, apart from a clear congressional majority of 176 seats, would be less dependence on the Catalan nationalist party ERC and other regional nationalist groups (the Socialists got 164 seats in the last elections).
The PSOE, he says, "would be happy" not to depend on the votes of ERC after 2008. "The ERC spokesman's speech about the train stoppages in Barcelona was so harsh that the prime minister had to remind him that his party forms part of the regional government coalition in Catalonia. Four years more of this, with the continual pushing and shoving, would be a real pain in the neck."
Soledad Gallego-Díaz is a regular EL PAÍS columnist.
[Copyright EL PAÍS, SL./ SOLEDAD GALLEGO-DÍAZ 2007]
Subject: Spanish news