Madrid mayor abandons bid for national role after party chief's snub
Handling of Gallardón issue damaging PP's standing in opinion polls.21 January 2008
MADRID - Alberto Ruiz Gallardón will abandon his bid for a prominent role in national politics and will reconsider remaining on as mayor of Madrid after the general election on 9 March, aides to the Popular Party politician disclosed Sunday.
The confirmation of Gallardón's decision to take a backseat in Spanish politics, if not retire entirely, comes less than a week after PP leader Mariano Rajoy humiliatingly refused to let him run for Congress. Opinion polls show that a majority of the Spanish public - including a large number of PP voters - disagree with Rajoy's decision, which has led to a sharp fall in support for the party seven weeks before Spaniards cast their ballots.
"Alberto felt deceived, because he thought he did not deserve what they had done to him. But he is also convinced that everything is now clear, that he tried and lost. After months of tension, he must be feeling liberated. There will be no further attempts," an aide told EL PAÍS on Sunday.
The only issue in doubt is whether Gallardón will see out his current term as mayor, which ends in 2011, in light of his commitment to voters and his campaign for the 2016 Olympic Games, the host city for which is to be decided next year.
"For the first time, Alberto has realised that his party or, better said, the leadership of his party, does not want him," the aide noted.
Rajoy's decision, taken under the influence of party hardliners, contrasts with the widespread public support for Gallardón, whose moderate policies and affable manner led to a landslide victory in local elections last year.
According to an opinion poll taken last Thursday and published at the weekend by the Metroscopia consultancy, the PP is now trailing Spain's governing Socialist Party by eight percentage points - a gap that has widened from two percentage points since the decision not to run Gallardón for Congress was announced. Just over half of respondents to the survey said the PP's chances of winning the election had diminished - a similar number to those who think Rajoy has made a mistake in spurning the Madrid mayor.
[Copyright EL PAÍS 2008]
Subject: Spanish news