Ex-Endesa chairman picked by PP
Manuel Pizarro to run alongside opposition leader in upcoming general election.16 January 2008
MADRID - Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy confirmed Tuesday that he has picked Manuel Pizarro, a prominent businessman and close friend of former Prime Minister José María Aznar, to run alongside him for Congress in the general election on 9 March.
The choice of Pizarro, a board member of telecommunications group Telefónica and former chairman of electricity group Endesa, apparently reflects an effort to shore up the business vote ahead of an election in which Spain's slowing economy is expected to be a major issue. Rajoy did not say whether Pizarro would become economy minister if elected, although he was quick to draw comparisons with the current Socialist incumbent, Pedro Solbes, who is seeking re-election.
"Pizarro has got a lot more enthusiasm. He has a lot more courage. He is stronger and his understanding of the economy is a lot closer to reality," Rajoy said.
Solbes, a former European economic affairs commissioner, indicated that he would welcome the challenge of going up against the business heavyweight for voters' ballots. "Welcome to the frontline after so long playing politics on the sidelines," Solbes quipped. Other Socialists labelled Pizarro a "corporate shark" and warned of a return of "jobs for the boys" if the PP wins the election.
As chairman of Endesa until last year, Pizarro faced off with the Socialist administration in a takeover battle for the electricity supplier that pitted Germany's E.ON against Barcelona-based Gas Natural. Pizarro favoured a buyout by the German group, while the Spanish government favoured Gas Natural and even went so far as to change takeover rules in an attempt to block E.ON's bid. Ultimately, Endesa was sold to Spanish construction group Acciona and Italian energy firm Enel.
Throughout the takeover battle, Pizarro received the implicit support of the PP, among whose members he counts several friends - not least Aznar with whom he regularly holds dinner parties.
Rajoy is due to decide tomorrow who else will take prominent positions on the party's candidate lists, with Madrid mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardón expected to be given a key place.
[Copyright EL PAÍS / CARLOS E. CUÉ 2008]
Subject: Spanish news