Spain's PM backs deputy to succeed him: reports
Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba is set to lead the ruling Socialist Party in general elections next year after the country's premier backed him as his successor, Spanish media reported.
"Rubalcaba is the best possible" candidate, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero told a meeting of regional party leaders late Friday, Spain's leading daily El Pais said on its website.
Other Spanish media also reported Zapatero had backed Rubalcaba, quoting sources in the Socialist Party (PSOE).
A PSOE spokeswoman declined to confirm the reports when asked by AFP.
Zapatero announced last month he would not seek a third mandate, and the process for choosing his successor is set to begin on Saturday.
Defence Minister Carme Chacon said Thursday she would not stand as a candidate, leaving the way open for Rubalcaba to take the post.
Rubalcaba, 59, is also interior minister and one of the most powerful figures in the government.
Chacon, 40, said she had initially decided to run but changed her mind in order to avoid a spat within the party.
Infighting had erupted among the Socialists over how to choose a new leader after the party's humiliating rout in local elections on Sunday.
After eight years in opposition, the conservative Popular Party of Mariano Rajoy is widely expected to romp into office in general elections scheduled by March 2012.
© 2011 AFP