PP hopes for revival with choice of spokesperson
Opposition party replaces hardline Zaplana in Congress over the coming legislature1 April 2008
MADRID – Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy on Monday picked Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría to become the party's spokesperson in Congress over the coming legislature, as he seeks to rejuvenate the PP's image following its defeat in the general election on 9 March.
The choice of Sáenz de Santamaría, a 36-year-old lawyer formerly in charge of the PP's regional and local policy, ends three weeks of speculation about who would fill the shoes of Eduardo Zaplana, a fiery conservative who had represented the party since 2004.
Other possible choices had included the more experienced Esteban González Pons and Juan Costa, both of whom hail from Valencia, a bastion of conservative rule whose politicians have seen their influence over the party increase in the wake of the election.
Sáenz de Santamaría, who was born in the northern city of Valladolid but elected to Congress as a Madrid representative, will be the first woman to hold the post for the PP.
In picking her, Rajoy appears to be attempting to stamp his control on the party after deciding against all expectations to retain the leadership in spite of the election defeat. She is also a close ally of Rajoy, having begun her political career in 2000 as an aide to the PP leader when he was a Cabinet minister.
"The PP's goal is to win the next election and to achieve that we have to convince voters. We have to strengthen the party," Rajoy told PP officials in Madrid.
Sáenz de Santamaría said she will dedicate herself "body and soul" to the task she has been given and will lead the PP in Congress in "firm and constructive" opposition to the governing Socialist Party.
She said Rajoy had offered her the position "with sufficient time to prepare," although he had kept his decision secret from other party members until yesterday.
Sáenz de Santamaría will have her first test today when Congress reconvenes for the first time since before the election. Pío García-Escudero will continue on as PP spokesman in the Senate.
[Copyright El Pais / Carlos E. Cue 2008]