New revolt casts further doubt on Rajoy's grip on PP

13th May 2008, Comments 0 comments

Basque PP leader's departure from committee fuels split rumours

13 May 2008

MADRID - Conservative opposition leader Mariano Rajoy on Monday faced a new revolt within his Popular Party after the leader of its Basque wing, María San Gil, unexpectedly announced that she is leaving a key policy committee.

San Gil, a publicly popular if usually unassuming official within the PP, announced late Sunday that she is stepping down from a three-member committee that has been designing the party's political strategy ahead of a convention in Valencia from 20 to 22 June.

San Gil said she has "fundamental differences" with the positions adopted by the other members of the committee, particularly with regard to new efforts to engage moderate Basque nationalists. She said she believes the new policy does not sufficiently emphasise the need to "fight for freedom" from ETA terrorism in the Basque Country.

Coming after two weeks in which two other PP leaders have given up prominent roles, San Gil's surprise departure from the committee widens a split between hardliners and moderates that cracked open after Rajoy's second consecutive election defeat to the Socialists on 9 March.

Since then, Rajoy has turned his back on the PP's conservative grassroots in an apparent bid to broaden the party's appeal to voters and weaken the anti-PP vote that he blames for the Socialist victory. But in trying to change tack so quickly after a legislature steeped in divisive politics - particularly over how best to end ETA's campaign of violence - Rajoy has cast aside key figures.

"We should all reflect on this, especially the highest national leadership," Madrid regional Premier Esperanza Aguirre, who was rumoured to be preparing a challenge to Rajoy's presidency, said yesterday.

[El Pais / Ángeles Espinosa / Expatica]

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