Monday, June 09, 2008

No We Can't!

The start of the week has only brought bad news for Mariano Rajoy recently, so the lead story with many papers today won’t necessarily seem so bad to him. Juan Costa, who has toyed with the idea of challenging Rajoy as PP leader for the last couple of weeks, has finally decided not to take the plunge. This leaves Rajoy, at least for the moment, with no rival for the PP congress due to take place in Valencia in a couple of weeks time.

Costa has said that the reason he is not presenting his candidacy is because he has been unable to get the required support of 600 of the delegates to the party congress. This explanation is a little unconvincing, after all if you don’t declare yourself as a candidate then it’s a little difficult for the delegates to commit to you, and Costa at no point made this declaration. Although Rajoy appears to have the “avales” of most of the delegates wrapped up, in reality it would have been very difficult for him to refuse to cede some of these to a rival if they needed them; it would make him look as if he was trying to block any opposition. Madrid could have given Costa a head start too with over 200 delegates, as yet uncommitted to anyone.

Unfortunately for Costa, the requirement to have 600 supporters was not the only hurdle he had to jump. Any candidate for the leadership must also present a “team” of 35 persons who will effectively be the candidate’s executive. This made things more difficult for Costa, although many prominent PP members were prepared to encourage his candidacy, not so many of them were prepared to risk political suicide by forming part of it. He would have been a curious candidate anyway, someone who apparently comes from the (relatively) centrist wing of the PP but with his main support coming from the more right wing fringes. The idea being that he is useful for bringing down Rajoy and could then be replaced himself nearer to the next election. In any case, there are strong rumours that Costa will soon be off to make money in the private sector, following the example of his political mentor – Rodrigo Rato.

There is still the possibility of an alternative candidate to Rajoy right up to the day the congress starts, but it is now looking less likely. That doesn’t mean that Rajoy will emerge undamaged from the PP congress, his big worry in the absence of any rival will be the number of delegates who decide not to vote for anyone as leader. In some ways defeating a relatively weak rival would be better for his legitimacy as PP leader than being elected “Bulgarian” style as the only candidate but with a significant abstention. I’m still waiting for someone in the PP to come out in praise of the election held this weekend by Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya to elect their new leadership team. Every single party member was entitled to vote, a model of internal democracy which even those PP members who claim to favour primaries don’t seem to be rushing to praise.

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