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Back to the future with Rubalcaba

Spain’s Socialists have chosen a veteran of two previous governments as their new leader. Given this baggage, his challenge is to show he can come up with new ideas.


Unity, strength and change were the basis of Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba’s rallying cry on winning the Spanish Socialist Party primary by the slimmest of margins on Saturday. But unity currently looks a tall order for the party, given that its 900 or so delegates were divided almost exactly down the middle in choosing Rubalcaba over Carme Chacón. And it can hardly daw on much strength, either, following its record losses in local and general elections in 2011. Rubalcaba himself was the candidate who suffered the general election loss, the Socialists’ worst in the democratic era, and it is now he who has been chosen to pick up the pieces and redefine the party.

So change it is. What that change will entail is still not entirely clear, although in recent days Rubalcaba has indicated he favours a more aggressive approach to economic institutions and, possibly, the Catholic Church.

The new leader’s intellect and political abilities are not in doubt. But a problem Rubalcaba will have in the coming months will be to convince Spanish voters that his extensive experience in the governments of both Felipe González and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero does not disqualify him from having new ideas.

The new Popular Party (PP) government seems to have made things easier for Rubalcaba. It has introduced sweeping cuts, with more expected, and its social-political agenda seems to be aimed at pleasing voters on the right (such as plans to change the abortion law, stiffen controls over the use of the morning after pill, and, reportedly, to re-politicise state broadcaster RTVE). All of this will encourage the Socialists to deliver bold rhetoric from the opposition benches.

As for Chacón, her party has shunned the opportunity to choose someone who had a genuinely mould-breaking profile, even if her policies appeared vague. Appointing a 40-year-old Catalan woman would have been a brave move for a party in crisis – and perhaps the more logical one. Instead, the Socialists have chosen the man who was the figurehead of their worst electoral disaster.

The regional election in Andalusia in March will be Rubalcaba’s first test. It will also give us an idea as to whether his party has made the right choice.

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Published: Feb 5 2012
Category: Iberoblog
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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1 Comment for “Back to the future with Rubalcaba”

  1. Clueless and pointless. Can the politicians surprise us on the bright side, for a difference?

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