Saturday, June 21, 2008

Rajoy Wins Time But Not The War

With the appointment of María Dolores de Cospedal as secretary general of the Partido Popular, Mariano Rajoy has played a shrewd card in his battle to remain as party leader. Cospedal was a safe bet given her history of having worked with various powerful figures in the PP, including Esperanza Aguirre. Indeed it was this announcement that forced Aguirre’s hand and led her to declare for the first time that she would vote for Rajoy as leader. The absence of any position in the party apparatus for Alberto Ruiz Gallardón also took arguments away from Aguirre. The press seems to think the real winner of Rajoy’s list has been Javier Arenas, the PP leader in Andalucia and mentor of Cospedal, who has consolidated his power. We are still waiting to find out what role, if any, Gallardón will get. Apart from other effects the appointment of Cospedal, someone who is divorced and became a mother via artificial insemination, reveals that the PP has finally accepted the change of century; from the 19th to the 20th at least. The bishops cannot be pleased.

Meanwhile, Aguirre couldn’t resist stirring the pot a bit in the run up to the congress. She revealed a hitherto well kept secret by saying that she had always opposed the PP’s attempt to get the constitutional court to overturn the law permitting gay marriage. This was one of the issues that Rajoy’s people were working hard to defuse before the congress began. Another hot issue has been the political principles declaration which was the formal pretext for Maria San Gil resigning her position. This declaration in reality included virtually all that San Gil had demanded, but following her political suicide it is subsequently being watered down to make it more acceptable for the new image that Rajoy wants to try and present. The accusation that the Basque Nationalist Party more or less collaborates with ETA is expected to go, the new model PP will no longer try to associate terrorism and regional nationalism in such a direct way.

Meanwhile the first day gave us some revealing glimpses of the internal divisions within the party. Angel Acebes speech as outgoing secretary general was a vindication of the four years of scorched earth opposition that the PP practised following their defeat in 2004. Then there was Aznar. His brief handshake yesterday with Rajoy is being compared to the warm way in which he greeted Acebes or Aguirre, and his speech today is awaited with huge expectation. Rajoy does occasionally show a bit of a sense of humour, whether intentionally or not is unclear. At the last PP congress his closing speech was completely overshadowed by that of Aznar, some delegates even left for home immediately following Aznar’s turn. Determined that the same would not happen again, they have moved Aznar’s intervention to the previous day, yet Rajoy claimed that he had done this so that delegates could leave early if they want to! Presumably those that are not prepared to vote for him as PP leader. The congress has already agreed to introduce a primaries system for future elections of leaders, so Rajoy knows that his war is not over. Would it be a cheap shot to suggest that he could always get his cousin to kidnap some of his poltical enemies? Yes, it would, but what the hell.

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