Spain's deputy PM runs for party leadership

30th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Spain's deputy prime minister, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, Monday launched a public campaign to lead the battered Socialist Party saying he is convinced it can win 2012 general elections.

Prime Minsister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero vowed not to stand again even before the ruling Socialists were crushed in May 22 local elections by the conservative opposition Popular Party.

Rubalcaba, one of Spain's most powerful politicians occupying the posts of both deputy prime minister and interior minister, said he was focused on victory.

"When a runner is in the starting blocks, he only thinks of winning," the 59-year-old minister, a former 100-metre sprinter, told his first news conference since declaring as a candidate at the weekend.

He has won popular support as interior minister for his tough stance against armed Basque separatists ETA.

Rubalcaba is the official candidate to lead the party into March 2012 general elections and has Zapatero's support after his only potential rival, Defence Minister Carme Chacon, withdrew.

The deputy prime minister said he would tour regional Socialist Party federations to win over party members while holding on to the number two job in the government.

Employment would be the main focus, Rubalcaba said.

"People are going through difficult times and have a bleak view. We should offer them solutions and policies in which they can have confidence," the minister said.

Spain's unemployment rate struck 21.29 percent in the first quarter of this year -- the highest in the industrialised world -- and has provoked spontaneous protests in city centres across the country.

Candidates for the Socialist Party leadership primaries have until June 13 to declare. Party members will cast their votes June 26.

© 2011 AFP

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