Spanish press say interior minister wins in reshuffle

21st October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spain's interior minister, renowned for his determination to crush armed Basque separatists ETA, has emerged as the government strongman in a reshuffle, the press said Thursday.

Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba gained two extra portofolios in Wednesday's reshuffle: the powerful political post of deputy prime minister and the high-profile post of official government spokesman.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced the biggest reshuffle of his six years in power, also bringing in new ministers for foreign affairs, health, labour and the environment.

"Zapatero leaves Spain in the hands of Rubalcaba", was the front page of right-of-centre daily El Mundo.

"Zapatero puts Rubalcaba at the head of the rescue plan for the Socialist project," headlined El Pais, the leading left-of-centre daily.

Rubalcaba's promotion was the most important ingredient in Zapatero's shake-up, said El Pais.

"Zapatero has placed all his trust in Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, a politician who is experienced and held in esteem by the public," the newspaper said.

"With the three posts he becomes the member who has accumulated the most power in a government since 1977," date of the first general election after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco, it said.

The prime minister was playing his last card before a possible succession of electoral defeats, the paper said, with regional elections due in 2011 and general elections in 2012.

El Mundo also said the concentration of power in Rubalcaba's hands was without precedent.

"It would not be an exaggeration to say that Zapatero has left Spain in Rubalcaba's hands in the same way that kins placed power in the hands of their most trusted.

"What the president (of the government) has done is to abdicate his responsibilities in ceding to only one person areas of the government that were previously shared," it said.

The right-wing ABC took a similar view: "Effectively, one can say that Rubalcaba is the new government of Zapatero."

Among other changes in the government, 48-year-old Health Minister Trinidad Jimenez toook over as foreign minister from Miguel Angel Moratinos, 59, who had been in the post since Zapatero first came to power in 2004.

In cost-cutting moves, the prime minister Wednesday also eliminated the ministries of equality and of housing, which will be incorporated into other ministries.

© 2010 AFP

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