El Pais turns on Spanish PM
The Spanish newspaper has been highly critical of Zapatero in recent weeks. Does the paper really disagree with the newly-implemented economic policies or is there a hidden agenda?Influential Spanish daily El Pais on Wednesday blasted Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's handling of the economic downturn in a rare attack by the usually loyal newspaper.
The vitriolic editorial, which began unusually on the front page, called for change if the economy was to avoid going into freefall.
There was a growing feeling that "he (Zapatero) acts with improvisation and flippancy against one of the most serious economic crises of the country's history," it said.
"If the government that Zapatero presides (over) wants to move away from the slippery slope it is on and ensure its continuity and, most importantly, drive the economic recovery and not dive into the abyss, a change is necessary," it added.
El Pais was the prime minister's main media ally before and after he came to power in 2004.
However, the 30-year-old centre-left newspaper has in recent weeks been highly critical of Zapatero's personal leadership style and economic policies.
Earlier in September, the newspaper published a huge caricature depicting Zapatero at the helm of a sinking map of Spain encircled by sharks marked unemployment and deficit.
The editorial comes on the heels of the resignation this month of three former cabinet ministers in Zapatero's government from their seats in parliament in what has been seen as a sign of a growing split within the ruling party.
El Pais accused Zapatero of increasingly adopting a "presidential" style and said change was needed "not only with respect to the political measures adopted but also in the way they are taken and executed, which has reached an unprecedented level of confusion."
It faulted the premier for regularly contradicting his ministers, for making changes to his government for "no identifiable political reasons" and for a lack of debate within the Socialist Party over its policies.
El Pais is owned by Prisa, one of the largest media groups in the Spanish-speaking world.
Prisa is engaged in an intense competition with another left-leaning media group, Mediapro, which was granted digital television rights in August by the government.
Prisa, based in Madrid, regularly accuses the government of favouring Mediapro, which is based in Barcelona, Spain's second-largest city.
The critical editorial provoked a furious debate, with more than 1,000 readers posting comments online.
Over 20,000 readers answered an online poll accompanying the editorial which asked if Zapatero was handling the economic downturn well.
Eighty percent responded "no", 18 percent said "yes" and the rest were undecided.
The paper has broken with the Socialists before while they were in office.
In 1995 it published another front-page editorial questioning the ability of the prime minister at the time, Felipe Gonzalez, to govern after his 12 years in office amid a series of corruption scandals.
The Socialists lost the next general election held the following year by a slim margin, ushering in eight years of rule by the conservative Popular Party.
Spain entered its first recession in 15 years at the end of 2008 as the global credit crunch hastened a correction that was already under way in its key property sector.
The government predicts the unemployment rate will end the year at 17.9 percent, twice the European Union average, and rise to 18.9 percent in 2010.
18 September 2009
AFP / Expatica