Monday, October 04, 2010

Zapatero's Primary Problem Is Not Madrid

The right-wing press in Spain were gleeful today with the result of yesterday's primary election to choose the PSOE's candidate to contest the regional presidency of Madrid in next year's elections. The narrow victory for Tomas Gómez over the health minister, Trinidad Jiménez, is presented as being a snub to Zapatero because he had made it clear his preferred candidate was Jiménez. It is even leading some commentators to talk of this election as being the beginning of 'postzapaterismo', the start of the battle to succeed Zapatero as PSOE leader. It is claimed that Zapatero wanted a candidate capable of displacing Esperanza Aguirre to compensate for what are expected to be heavy losses in other regions in next year's elections.

Zapatero can hardly complain that people interpret the result as a slap in the face for him, even where there are obvious political interests at work in reaching that judgement. He made it clear that he didn't want Gómez to be the candidate, and rather than just allow his own choice to contest the primary both he and other senior PSOE figures tried to force Gómez to withdraw from the contest. The national PSOE machine also seems to have been involved in the campaign to promote Jiménez with clear support from friendly media, notably El País. Rather than being a vote against Zapatero, the rejection of Jiménez probably has at least as much to do with party members simply not liking the attempt to link a vote for Gómez with disloyalty to the party leadership.

The contest itself was a dismal one, nobody is any the wiser now after weeks of campaigning about what either candidate thinks should be done for Madrid. Jiménez based her entire campaign around the idea that she was more popular in opinion polls than Gómez, whilst Gómez countered as being the candidate of the party base with the (unspoken) implication that Trini was being imposed on the party. It was all very uninspiring and inward looking, an opportunity for both candidates to present an alternative vision for Madrid was lost. One good thing comes out of it for Gómez, at least people now know who he is! That always helps.

Not that those parties who don't even bother electing their candidates have too much to celebrate. The Partido Popular has a couple of major candidate problems of its own. In Asturias the attempt by former PP general secretary Francisco Álvarez Cascos to force his way in as candidate for the regional elections has provoked a revolt in the Asturian PP. Cascos is hated by many of the influential figures in the party there, and it has so far only been the intervention of the national leadership that has kept his hopes alive against the local attempts to choose an alternative candidate. Cascos is a dinosaur from Aznar's PP, and it's hard to see why PP leader Mariano Rajoy would want another potential critic from that period in a position of influence. He's already got Esperanza Aguirre for that. It's no surprise that Aguirre is an enthusiastic backer of Cascos.

Then there is Valencia. The PP failed last week in an attempt to halt the transfer of that part of the Gürtel corruption case affecting Valencia to the courts in the region. This is no longer just about the suits that Francisco Camps is alleged to have received in return for political favours. The case now accuses the Valencian PP of far more serious offences, and the PP seems determined to try and slow down the judicial process as much as possible in the hope that nothing happens before the election next year. It helps that the highest court in Valencia is still in the hands of the man who last year came to the rescue of Camps, Juan Luis de la Rúa. This judge is supposed to be have been replaced, but political wrangling over who gets which position has so far kept De la Rúa in his post. Mariano Rajoy no longer likes to be photographed with Camps and there are those in the national PP who think the latter's position is untenable, but neither does Rajoy want the Valencian election to be dominated by Gürtel.

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