Spain defence minister says won't seek party leadership

26th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Defence Minister Carme Chacon said Thursday she has decided not to stand as a candidate in primaries to select a new leader of Spain's ruling Socialists following their rout in weekend local elections.

Chacon, 40, said she had initially decided to run as a candidate in February but has now decided against it order to curtail a spat within the party over the best way to pick Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's successor.

"I have taken the decision to not take part in primary elections to choose the next Socialist Party candidate," she told a news conference.

"I feel that today I must take a step backwards so that the Socialist Party can take a step forward. Over the past few days we have witnessed an escalating debate which puts the unity of the party at risk," she added.

The process for choosing Zapatero's successor as leader of the Socialist Party is set to begin on Saturday. The prime minister had called for internal primaries in which all 220,000 party members have a say on their next leader.

But at the last moment, dissenters called for a congress of between 500 and 2,000 elected party members to rethink party strategy and decide on a single candidate.

Chacon, who became Spain's first female minister of defence when she was sworn in in April 2008 when she was seven months pregnant, is popular with younger voters.

Spain is set to hold its next general election during the first half of next year. Zapatero said last month that he would not seek a third mandate.

© 2011 AFP

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