30 August 2007
MADRID – Spain’s opposition conservatives are trying to look united after an elder statesman in the party questioned their leader and urged renewal _ the second internal spat to hit them in a matter of days as they focus on regaining power in elections next year.
Manuel Fraga, the 86-year-old honorary president of the Popular Party and only surviving ex-minister from the regime of Gen. Francisco Franco, triggered the new uproar Monday night by saying “it is time to start preparing the successions.”
This was taken as a dig at party leader Mariano Rajoy. Fraga added: “A party cannot rely on just one man.”
Rajoy will be trying to unseat Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in general elections expected in March 2008.
The conservatives were in power at the time of the last election in March 2004, but lost in voting overshadowed by Islamic militant attacks on the Madrid commuter network three days earlier. The blasts killed 191 people and wounded 1,800, and were claimed by militants who said they acted on al-Qaida’s behalf to avenge the presence of Spanish troops in Iraq.
After the remarks by Fraga, who is known for speaking his mind, party spokesman Eduardo Zaplana said Tuesday the party has “no succession scheduled” and is focusing on winning the election.
What is at stake is just that, Zaplana said, “not a question of names or dates or candidacies.”
This alluded back to another internal skirmish when Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, considered one of Spain’s most up-and-coming politicians and a potential rival to Rajoy, said on Aug. 19 he would like to run for a parliamentary seat.
Zaplana and other party official reacted frostily, telling him point-blank to focus on his job of running the Spanish capital.
Zapatero’s Socialist party said Fraga’s remarks show there are worries among some conservatives as to Rajoy’s viability as leader.
“Fraga knows this, and therefore he suggests that things be done in an orderly fashion and that the inevitable succession be prepared,” said Diego Lopez Garrido, the party’s spokesman in the legislature.
[Copyright AP with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news