Monday, May 12, 2008

San Gil Kicks Rajoy When He's Down

The fire is blazing again in the Partido Popular (PP). The decision by the PP’s leader in the Basque Country, Maria San Gil, to walk out of the group preparing the policy document for the PP’s congress is a serious blow for the party leadership. San Gil’s act of rebellion is a bit more difficult to deal with than any of Esperanza Aguirre’s outbursts. She is not seen as a candidate for the leadership and what is more she is widely respected throughout the PP. It seems that her reasons for walking out of the policy group are to do with disagreements over the PP’s treatment of regional nationalism. San Gil belongs to the most intransigent, hard line sector of the PP on this issue, opposed to anything which smacks of concessions to nationalism in the Basque Country or anywhere else.

Mariano Rajoy’s problem is to how to reconcile his party with political realities. He knows that the PP needs to win votes in Cataluña and the Basque Country to form a government. The problem is that the anti-nationalist sentiment that plays well for the PP in other parts of Spain doesn’t get them anywhere in these two regions. Even Aznar understood this. So there is an attempt to soften the “España se rompe” discourse of the last few years and the hope obviously was that the group set up to prepare the political principles statement for the conference would help to do this. With San Gil publicly pulling out in this way it makes it much more difficult to change the direction of the party without a difficult and potentially divisive debate at the congress in June. Although Rajoy does not yet have any declared opponent challenging him at the conference his position is getting steadily weaker. If he isn’t careful his enemies will place him alongside Zapatero and ETA on the list of those who are secretly plotting the destruction of Spain. Meanwhile, the government’s opposition-free honeymoon continues.


12 comments:

Erik Wirdheim said...

Hi Graeme,

I just wanted to encourage you to keep on writing. Thanks to your blog I finally understand the depth of this San Gil affair which there is so much talking about.

//Erik

StarHound said...

Anything short of 'No, No. No' or perhaps 'Never, Never, Never', to invoke the apt figure of Ian Paisley, is going to force San Gil and the Basque PP into what would only look like a U-turn on their hardline anti-nationalist stance - this was presumably too much for the uncompromising and arrogant San Gil. They have painted themselves into a corner and any attempt by Rajoy to sneak out of it is just not going to work.

The PP really need to take their oil and just admit that they have been beaten again - attempts at cooing to the Nationalists are part of Rajoys's attempt to give the illusion of change without actually delivering too much of it. Rajoy's strategy of looking the other way seems to be gradually failing which is putting an increasingly big question mark over him.

The PP just don't seem to learn - look at how much time their new document spends Basque-bashing, Catalan-bashing and 'to a lesser extent' Galicia-bashing. Their attempts to link all Basque parties and the very notions of self-determination and independence with E.T.A. are as shameful as they are pathetic. This whole strategy is a busted flush.

http://www.deia.com/es/digital/politica/2008/05/13/467066.php

The PP are down to three seats in the Basque Country and their vote has fallen steadily in the last ten years - I think there is really little hope of any improvement there. They eked out an extra seat this time in Catalunya but by luck more than anything as their vote fell yet again. PP fellow travellers UPN in Navarra will be stuck on two seats now that Nafarroa Bai seem to be quite comfortable in what was UPN's third seat.

If he Rajoy wants to reach out he needs to try something new but he won't and I don't think the PP wants to. I get the feeling that he is just re-arranging the deck chairs at this stage.

Graeme said...

The strange thing, looking at what the document says, is to try and work out why San Gil couldn't support it. It doesn't represent any fundamental change at all - which means that either they hastily reworded it after she stomped out or she was just delivering a pre-planned slap to Rajoy. His problem is that he knows he only has one bit of the cherry left (even that is far from certain) and that doesn't give him enough time to make the PP look more appealing in regions like the Basque Country or Cataluña.

moscow said...

Graeme,
When writing about San Gil it might be worth mentioning this is the same woman who witnessed a colleague get a bullet in the neck while sitting at the same table. Then she has just survived cancer....And last but not least she is Basque, which means she is 'kindda' headstrong. It seems that Basque members of PP are even more radical than their counterparts elsewhere. Which reminds me: it might haven be even lucky Rajoy got chosen by Aznar, and not Mayor. At least Rajoy is an undecisive, dithering sort of a a pillock. Mayor would probaly have bulldozed anyone in his way and charged around like a bull until nothing in Spain was left standing. I am amazed Rajoy is still there. I found his explanation that he had the right to stand a third time because Aznar and Gonzalez had, totally off-beam, perhaps even disingenous, as both Aznar's and Gonzalez's circumstances were absolutely different. Now the man is trying to distance himself from his own past policies. This is something a leader can achieve whilst in government - because he is control of the mechanisms of power - or a party as a whole - by sacking the leader and electing a new one. I can't remember the precedent of a political leader in opposition changing gear after loosing two consecutive elections and remaining in charge. It's beyond ludicruous. Meanwhile Zapatero can't believe his luck.

Graeme said...

There a quite a few observers who see the hand of Mayor Oreja in the whole issue of how to deal with the nationalists. Everybody almost forgot he existed after his exile to the European Parliament. I don't think anybody expected to see the scale of the dissent that has broken out in the PP, although reading a bit more about the history of the right pre- Aznar perhaps it's not that surprising.

moscow said...

Graeme,
I know it's bad manners, puts me in a bad light, and son, but if I remember correctly: I told you so in this blog.

Graeme said...

Told me what Moscow? That the PP would fall apart? If you did then you win a specially engraved South of Watford Accurate Predictions Medal. On the other hand, because it's bad manners to mention it, I'll have to withhold the award. Sorry.

Tom said...

Graeme - don't want to sound big-headed or anything, but I definitely predicted it about a day before Moscow did. Also on this blog. I wouldn't mention it but I just thought, you know, that everyone should know.

Graeme said...

There we go, one starts and everybody else piles in! I don't want to boast, but on the day I arrived in Spain I put inside a sealed envelope a slip of paper with the words "PP fall apart Spring 2008". I just can't find it.

StarHound said...

Anyhoo, ladies...

What Graeme says about the PP document is right but I think even the whiff of a U-Turn is enough to get the blood up for someone as extreme as San Gil.

moscow said...

Ok, I'll apologize for my silly vainglorious and impetuous comment. But I still want the medal.

Graeme said...

Moscow: I'll put your claim for the medal to the South of Watford awards arbitration committee. They normally meet once a decade, and the last meeting was in February. Oh well.

Starhound - it seems pretty clear from what was said yesterday that San Gil's objections have nothing at all to do with the policy document. It looks like the hardliners are goping to step up the pressure and use terrorism/nationalism as the lever. After all, they wrote the song.