Has Rajoy turned the corner? Of course he hasn’t
Victory in the Galician elections for his Partido Popular was a boost for the Spanish prime minister, but it wasn’t his doing.
By Guy Hedgecoe
In the lead-up to the weekend’s elections in Galicia and the Basque Country, it was striking how much attention was focused on the former. The Galician vote, we were repeatedly told by both the international and Spanish media, will reflect widespread discontent at Mariano Rajoy’s economic policy.
But the result saw Rajoy’s Partido Popular (PP) maintain its majority and increase its share of seats. What are we to make of this if we believe the previews that presented Galicia as a faithful representation of Spain as a whole? Is Rajoy bouncing back?
Of course he isn’t. The central government in Madrid is still in as much difficulty as it was before the Galician election and Rajoy’s approval ratings are still sliding. What his party’s triumph in the northwest showed, as much as anything, is just how conservative Galicia is and what a canny candidate Alberto Núnez Feijoo has turned out to be. Having allowed the region’s debt to balloon under his regional government and watched unemployment soar from 12 percent to 21 percent in three years, Feijoo pulled off an electoral coup.
The other factor in his win, of course, was the Socialists’ disastrous performance. Even with economic figures like those above to use as ammunition, the opposition was unable to win over Galicians. While Feijoo’s win bucked the trend for the PP, the Socialists’ heavy loss does faithfully reflect the party’s ongoing failure to dig itself out of a Zapatero-shaped hole.
In the Basque country, Patxi López also suffered from this phenomenon, although as the region’s premier during the last three years, he was always likely to take a beating over the economy. It was a tough blow for a politician who will surely be a serious contender to lead the Spanish Socialist Party once its current crisis and leadership have run their course.
With López now unseated as Lehendakari, the real business starts as the Basque parties negotiate over who will partner whom in the new government. The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and Bildu dominate the regional parliament, and they will almost certainly place independence at the centre of the political agenda. Given the powerful position of these two nationalist groups, that should be a relatively easy task. Getting the Basque economy back on course could be an altogether bigger challenge.
Next: La Liga: Early-season form leaves Málaga relishing Milan visit
Previous: Bittersweet celebration for Basques a year after end of ETA’s violence