Thursday, June 21, 2007

What A Difference A Day Makes

Let's go into Michael Moore mode for a moment. Did it really happen? Was it all a dream? The last time Madrid voted for its regional government back in 2003, the election was held twice. The reason for this has, at heart, a fairly simple explanation; the wrong side won the vote the first time around. Yes, it does seem odd to recall when we have the pauper president Esperanza Aguirre seemingly so strongly in command in the region - but she owes her position to the strange, and still unexplained, events that followed the first election held in that year. As the members of the regional assembly voted on their choice for president it emerged that 2 members of the PSOE, Eduardo Tamayo and Maria Teresa Sáez, were not present in the chamber, leaving candidate Rafael Simancas short of the majority vote he needed to get the post.

It quickly became clear that the two rogue representatives had powerful friends, they had been accommodated in a hotel that was not being paid by them, and had also been assigned bodyguards. Despite clear evidence pointing to construction interests, and via these towards the Partido Popular (PP), the whole affair has never been fully clarified. The current Justice Minister, Mariano Fernandez Bermejo, was at the time the chief prosecutor in Madrid and recently stated that he was expressly forbidden from investigating what had happened. There was a general feeling that something very murky had happened, but that it was also the PSOE's fault for filling their lists with candidates who simply couldn't be relied upon. It briefly put the focus on a very unsatisfactory method of candidate selection which allowed people with no evident loyalty to become candidates for election. In the second election Aguirre won a narrow majority.

Tamayo and Sáez - Espe's best friends?

Anyway, the reason I raise this incident is not to rake over the details, but to point out the curious way it could affect the future political leadership of the country. I said the other week that I would examine the bizarre possibility that Aguirre could become the next leader of the PP should they lose the next election, and explain why I think she is likely to get there before apparent favourite Alberto Ruiz Gallardón. We are talking real possibilities here, the only opinion poll I have seen since ETA formally broke their ceasefire still leaves the PP trailing 3 points behind the government, unless that changes in the next 9 months then leader Mariano Rajoy is going to need a new job. Who you think will succeed him really depends on your view of how the PP works.

If you believe that the PP is being run by rational people making pragmatic political decisions based on cool, level-headed analysis of their situation then it's clear; the answer to a second successive election defeat would be to let Gallardón have his chance. You then present a reasonable, centrist image to the electorate with a proven vote winner at the helm. Against a second term government he would stand every chance of winning.

If, on the other hand, you believe like me that the party is being run by a resentful Aznarist clique whose overriding objective is to obtain revenge against all who have betrayed them, then suddenly Aguirre comes to mind as a candidate. Not least because she is a prominent member of that same group, and is far more entrenched in the party machinery than Gallardón is. You then present yourself for election with a rehashed second-hand Thatcherism that passed its sell by date at least 15 years ago.

Let’s not forget that the PP is not big on internal democracy, there is no mechanism for electing a leader. Gallardón is neither trusted nor liked by many of those in the upper echelons of the party and these are the people who will make the decision. If the PP loses but with a respectable result then those running the party now will remain in control, it would take an electoral cataclysm to really change things and let Gallardón claim his political inheritance. So place your bets, my money is on Espe. Whether she ever makes it to the top job or not I hope that she remembers to send a Christmas card every year to Tamayo and Sáez. Without their help when it mattered, she would now just be remembered vaguely as one of the more mediocre ministers in Aznar's administration; sometimes a small event can have far reaching consequences.


Evaristo said...

You have a point here. I also think that Espe is stronger in the party than Gallardón. Although probably Gallardón would be stronger with the voters. In the end, the right wing is always going to vote PP, even if they don't like him, while he has a better change with center and even ex-PSOE voters.

But I keep wondering whether there is a third hidden candidate. What about Rodrigo Rato? And... what about Aznar?


Graeme said...

Aznar!! You've been having some scary dreams on that long flight back from China. Personally I don't think he can return - once you've gone its very difficult to return even if you still control much of the party. People said the same thing in Britain when Thatcher went - she'll be back! But the reality is that even the most loyal of contenders would not want to stand aside for him to come back.

Rato could be a contender but he has no real base in the party, and he's a long way from home. He's the sort of person the Aznar wing might turn to if the only alternative is Gallardón - but I'm not sure they like him much better. Gallardon's problem will not be getting the PP supporters to vote for him, it's just getting the chance to be candidate in a party that isn't ready to have him.

Evaristo said...

Rato is back...

It seems that he doesn't want to go back to the Spanish politics.

Do you believe him?