Spanish ex-PM Aznar leaves door open to return

22nd May 2013, Comments 0 comments

Spain's former prime minister Jose Maria Aznar sparked a political furore Wednesday by leaving the door open to a return to power and calling for an urgent tax cut.

Aznar's comments were widely seen as a broadside against Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the man Aznar chose as his successor to lead the conservative Popular Party.

Asked if he would consider a return to politics given the crisis in Spain, Aznar said: "I have never shirked my responsibility, I will comply with my responsibility, my conscience, my party and my country."

The 60-year-old Aznar, who served as prime minister for two terms from 1996 to 2004, made little secret of the distant relationship that now exists between him and Rajoy, who won an election landslide in November 2011 promising to lead the nation out of an economic crisis.

"We had a conversation not long ago and that is the only long conversation we have had since he has been prime minister," Aznar told Antena 3 television on Tuesday night.

The former premier called notably for a tax cut to help the middle classes, a direct challenge to the Rajoy government's tax increases, aimed at reining in the budget and curbing debt.

"We need to lower taxes in Spain now," Aznar said.

"We need an urgent tax reform."

Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro, who held the same post in Aznar's government, defended Rajoy, saying times had changed since then.

"Those were times when the economy was growing four percent and three percent. Now we are declining," Montoro told parliament Wednesday.

He noted that the government expects the economy of Spain, which has a jobless rate of more than 27 percent, to shrink by 1.4 percent this year.

"I will leave melancholic nostalgia for another day," Montoro added.

The president of the lower house of parliament, Jesus Posada, added: "Everything has its time. We can be very proud of that period but things go and don't come back."

The opposition Socialist Party seized on the signs of division.

Soraya Rodriguez, spokeswoman for the Socialists in the lower house, accused the government of failing to listen to the opposition, the people "or its own party".

Aznar lost power to Socialist Party leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in elections held days after the March 11, 2004 train bombings in Madrid, which killed 191 people.

Aznar's government was criticised for initially blaming the Al Qaeda-inspired attack on the Basque separatist group ETA.

© 2013 AFP

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