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Front-runner to be Spanish PM lauds discipline

The front-runner to be the next Spanish prime minister, conservative leader Mariano Rajoy, releases Tuesday a biography lauding discipline and urging belt-tightening for Spain.

The book, “In Confidence”, is an autobiographical-political manifesto ahead of November 20 elections in which he expounds his support for respecting rules and his prescription for Spain’s economic ills.

“The essential priority will be economic growth and the creation of employment,” said the leader of the main opposition Popular Party, according to an advance copy of the book.

“Everything else will be subordinate to those goals: anything that hinders it will be set aside or delayed.”

The book’s release comes as the ruling Socialists lag far behind in the polls after presiding over the destruction of millions of jobs, leaving Spain with an unemployment rate of more than 20 percent.

Rajoy’s autobiography promises to describe not just his life but also his “project of change for Spain”.

It will be dissected for clues as to his policies for future government, which most people in Spain believe to be assured.

The most recent poll, in the conservative daily El Mundo on Sunday, predicted the Popular Party would win 47.1 percent of the vote to 32.3 percent for the Socialists.

The Socialists have already been crushed in local and regional polls in May, when a huge swathe of the electorate, furious over Spain’s economic crisis, abandoned them in favour of the Popular Party.

To stimulate the sluggish economy, Rajoy calls for cutting public spending and tax cuts, and he criticises the “almost chronic inability” of Socialist governments to manage the economy.

But beyond his manifesto, the 56-year-old politician also tries to give a personal sheen to the book, writing about his life and career in his native Galicia and about his personal convictions.

Rajoy insists on the important influence of his father, a judge, from whom he says he inherited “a marked sense for the respect of rules, a sense of justice and effort”.

He stresses the importance of education, calling for a return in Spain to “respect for authority” and “greater emphasis on discipline”, and describing the custom of favouring spontaneity among pupils as “tremendously harmful”.

On foreign relations, Rajoy calls for stronger relations with the United States, recalling the “excellent relations” enjoyed during the rule of prime minister Jose Maria Aznar, who governed from 2000-2004 and supported the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Rajoy also points to the importance of relations between Spain and Latin America: “Our great historical exploit and our standing opportunity,” he says of the continent, judging it to be a key bridge to closer relations with emerging countries in Asia.