Thursday, March 05, 2009

Rajoy....A Survivor's Tale

Written off on numerous occasions, you can say what you like about Mariano Rajoy; he's a survivor. Even the Condesa de Murillo has had to acknowledge, probably through gritted teeth, that Rajoy's leadership has been strengthed by the victory of the Partido Popular in Sunday's elections in Galicia. Had it gone the other way the story would have been very different, because when the PP doesn't win in Galicia it doesn't do very well nationally either. A failure for Rajoy on his home territory and with such a small improvement needed to win could have been sufficient to bring about his downfall. All that Rajoy has really succeeded in doing is living to fight another day. However, if the PP win the European elections in June, then he has a straight run through to at least 2011, which is when the next municipal elections have to be held.

The result in Galicia distracts from the fact that the PP lost 30% of their vote in the Basque Country. Some of these votes probably went to UPyD, and some to the PSOE, but that would still leave a few thousand that stayed at home. Yet the possibility that the PP may participate in the Basque government, or at least be in the position of king maker, even helps to make this look like a good result. It will be interesting now to see whether the victory in Galicia affects the PP's national poll ratings, which were showing a steady decline over the last few months. A win can often give momentum to a party and the indications from Galicia are that the economic crisis may finally be starting to have an effect on support for Zapatero.

Despite clearing the Galician hurdle, none of Rajoy's principal problems have gone away. Indeed most of these problems have two legs and tend to belong to the same party as Mariano. His usual strategy of leaving a decision on everything until the last minute won't help in dealing with them, because he could use his strengthened position to weaken that of some of his rivals. Esperanza Aguirre is almost ruled out as a possible successor now, but she still has the ability to damage the prospects of others. Rajoy if he wanted could insist on a more convincing result from the Madrid espionage scandal than that likely to emerge from Espe's fraudulent commission of investigation. He may even be forced to, most of those spied upon are not even being called to declare before the commission but one of them - Manuel Cobo - has decided to try and get the courts to deal with the situation. Meanwhile, despite the assertion that the corruption case known as Operación Gürtel was initiated for electoral reasons, it's not going to go away and there is a serious possibility of senior PP figures being formally accused. From yesterday's news it does seem that none of them will be national PP figures, but the potential implications of the case in Madrid and Valencia are still quite far reaching.

Perhaps these corruption cases don't matter? A phenomenon that was already noticeable in the municipal elections of 2007 is that corruption scandals have no visible effect on the PP's voters. In 2007 some municipalities where the PP were heavily involved in scandals actually returned the people involved with even greater majorities than they had before.


David said...

He doesn't seem too concerned about the corruption charges... he was down our way yesterday boasting about how he was going to kick Chaves out at the next elections.

Graeme said...

Well it's not often he's been able to celebrate victory in an election in the last few years. Wasn't there a poll the other day putting the PP within a point of the PSOE in Andalucia?