War of words within Popular Party
Madrid mayor comes under attack for criticising Madrid premier’s announcement that she may challenge Rajoy.11 April 2008
MADRID - The rifts that emerged within the Popular Party as a result of its defeat in the general election on 9 March blew open on Thursday as party heavyweights traded barbs over Madrid regional premier Esperanza Aguirre's suggestion that she may challenge Mariano Rajoy for the party presidency at a convention in June.
Madrid mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, an archrival of Aguirre, led the charge despite being 10,000 kilometres away on a pre-Olympic visit to China.
Speaking to members of the Spanish media in Beijing, Gallardón accused Aguirre of choosing the "worst time" to make public her "indecision" over whether she would run for the party leadership.
"It was inelegant, and showed a serious lack of support for Mariano Rajoy," Gallardón said.
On Monday, on the eve of the first debate in Congress of the new legislature, Aguirre had told a conference packed with the party's top brass that she had not ruled out running for the presidency, but that Rajoy, who was in the audience, would be the "first to know" if she chose to do so.
The comments sparked a flurry of speculation among party members and the media about her intentions ahead of the PP convention in Valencia in June.
Gallardón said yesterday that she stands no chance against Rajoy if she does decide to run. "I believe - and hope - that she will lose," the Madrid mayor said.
In response, Juan Soler, a deputy speaker in the Madrid parliament and an Aguirre ally, accused Gallardón of breaking an unwritten rule not to discuss party politics abroad. He also claimed the mayor was helping China "save face" by visiting the country despite the global outcry over human rights in Tibet.
Aguirre, however, appeared keen to lower the tone. In an apparent effort to play down speculation about her plans, the Madrid premier told reporters in the capital that she is only interested in stimulating debate on "ideas, principles and values," not candidates, ahead of the party convention.
"I have no personal interest in the convention," she said, noting that she feels "enormously proud and satisfied" with her current role in Madrid.
Her apparent backtracking may reflect the widespread opposition voiced by party heavyweights to the prospect of her running. Yesterday, the influential premiers of Valencia and Murcia, Francisco Camps and Ramón Luis Valcárcel, respectively, and the PP's leader in Galicia, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, all joined Gallardón in throwing their weight behind Rajoy.
[El Pais / A. Eatwell / Expatica]