Spanish PM suffers setback in Madrid primary vote
Spain's socialist prime minister has suffered a setback with the election at a weekend primary of a dissident candidate to represent the party in regional elections in Madrid next year, final results published Monday showed.
Tomas Gomez, a little-known former mayor of a dormitory town near the Spanish capital, captured nearly 52 percent of the vote in the party election held Sunday in the Madrid region, defeating Health Minister Trinidad Jiminez.
Jimenez had the backing of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and her defeat was seen as a sign that the prime minister is losing the tight grip he once held on the Socialist Party, in power at the national level since 2004.
"Zapatero loses the battle for Madrid," wrote centre-left daily newspaper El Pais, which added that the health minister's loss "is a turning point for a party which up until now showed unfailing loyalty to its leader."
Gomez, the leader of the Socialist Party's Madrid branch, forced the party vote with his refusal to bow to the party's desire to impose a candidate.
He won despite the fact that polls showed that voters felt Jiminez, 48, stood a better chance of defeating the current head of the Madrid regional government, the Popular Party's popular Esperanza Aguirre who has been in power since 2003.
A poll published Sunday in El Pais showed support for the Socialist Party had sunk further, amid voter anger over high unemployment and austerity measures intended to slash the public deficit.
The Socialists had the support of 28.5 percent of voters against 43 percent support for the conservative Popular Party, the Metroscopia survey of 500 people carried out for the newspaper on September 30 showed.
A year ago the two parties were virtually tied.
Zapatero has not yet declared if he will stand as the party's candidate for a third consecutive term in general elections slated for 2012.
© 2010 AFP