As a follow up to yesterday's post on the PSOE's leadership vacancy, the defence minister Carme Chacón has just announced today that she won't be contesting the job; at least not this time. She didn't look at all comfortable in the press conference, and at points even seemed to be close to tears. After detailing her project and saying that she took the decision months ago to be a candidate, Chacón has claimed that she changed her mind in the interests of party unity in the wake of Sunday's disastrous election results.
She would say that wouldn't she? It's widely assumed that Chacón has been under very heavy pressure not to get in the way of Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, who has still not officially even stated his interest in the job. It was reported this morning that Chacón's car had been stolen, but I'm resisting the temptation to suggest that this was a warning of what could happen if she stood as a candidate. It's still possible that there could be a primary election instead of a coronation, but it will be a brave candidate who takes the step forward. Nor is it so easy, you need a minimum level of support to be able to stand.
The whole process is beginning to look like an example of old politics winning the day. Can Rubalcaba really present a fresh vision of the country to those who have been protesting over the last week or to those PSOE voters who have opted for abstention? It was the police under his control that evicted the first campers in the Puerta del Sol. He's a throwback to the PSOE of Felipe Gonzalez, and whilst nobody doubts that he is an effective politician there's no sign of what sort of vision he can offer a country that needs change.
Chacón's decision is almost impeccable politically, when viewed from her own interests. She can now let Rubalcaba or whoever else gets chosen take the brunt of the expected electoral defeat, and then stand as a candidate for the future in the next contest. The only risk being that by this time there may be more candidates with the same idea. There is intense speculation that the government may not see out its full term and that we could get a general election in the autumn. Despite the calls from some for early elections it can't realistically be before then, Spaniards don't go to the polls in their swimming costumes.