PP leader defends decision to omit Madrid mayor from election race
'Defeated' Gallardón hints he may now abandon world of politics.
17 January 2008
MADRID - Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy yesterday defended his surprise decision not to let Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardón run for Congress in the 9 March general election, arguing his choices "depend on no one, other than the Spanish people."
In the wake of the unexpected announcement on Tuesday night that Gallardón will not be included in the PP's candidate list, Rajoy faced widespread criticism that he had given in to the "extreme right wing" of the party, and particularly to the wishes of Madrid regional premier Esperanza Aguirre, who has a history of animosity with the mayor. However, the PP leader refused to countenance the allegations.
"We only need to answer to the Spanish people," Rajoy said at a campaign rally in Alicante, Valencia, underscoring the "independence of the Popular Party and its leadership."
Gallardón, who is popular with Madrid voters and has long clamoured for a seat in Congress, appeared in a press conference earlier in the day to explain that he was "saddened, deeply saddened" by Rajoy's decision. "I dreamt of being a congressman, but in politics sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and the person talking to you now has been defeated," Gallardón told reporters. He said that after the election he will "profoundly reflect" upon his future and didn't deny rumours that he is considering leaving politics.
Though as a moderate conservative he had often ruffled feathers among hardliners, Gallardón was widely seen as an asset to the party after his 12 years in office in the capital, first as premier then as mayor. Manuel Fraga, the PP's octogenarian founder and honorary president, warned yesterday that Rajoy's decision will cost the party "many votes" come election day.
Socialist Party representatives have been quick to sound the alarm that shunning Gallardón signals a "swing to the right" by Spain's main opposition party.
"At least the Spanish public now know that the PP is very, very far to the right," Labour Minister Jesús Caldera, who is coordinating the Socialist election campaign, declared.
[Copyright EL PAÍS / A. EATWELL 2008]
Subject: Spanish news