PP Rebel Says Rajoy Should Consider Stepping Aside After Losses

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy
Mariano Rajoy, Spain's prime minister. Photographer: Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is facing mounting pressure from senior party officials after his group suffered its worst local-election result in 24 years.

Juan Vicente Herrera, the acting president of Castilla-Leon, said Rajoy should consider stepping aside before the general election due around the end of the year and criticized the prime minister’s strategy of focusing attention on the economic recovery.

“The party has to go for a strong generational renewal,” Herrera said in an interview with Onda Cero radio station. “We’ve relied too much on the recovery message, forgetting that a lot of families haven’t felt that recovery yet.”

Rajoy’s People’s Party is paying the price for four years of austerity and a raft of corruption scandals that left many of its supporters disenchanted. While the PP won the most votes in nine out of the 13 regions that also selected new leaders on Sunday, possible pacts between rival parties may see the PP kicked out of traditional strongholds such as Valencia or the Balearic Islands.

Spanish stocks fell for a second day on Tuesday, declining 0.3 percent at 12:32 p.m. in Madrid. The yield on 10-year government bonds was little changed after adding 5 basis points on Monday.

Herrera is the second senior official to go public with criticism of Rajoy in recent months, following Cayetana Alvarez de Toledo, a lawmaker from Madrid, who published a critique of his leadership in El Mundo newspaper last month after the prime minister shut down debate on the party’s defeat in Andalusia.

Regional Heavyweight

Herrera, born in 1956, has been president of the northern region of Castilla-Leon since 2002 and is considering whether to step aside in favor of a party colleague after the PP lost its outright majority for the first since 1991. The party won exactly half of the delegates in the 84-seat regional assembly.

Asked whether he’d advise Rajoy to run for a second term as prime minister, Herrera replied, “I would say to Rajoy: you have to look in the mirror and ask yourself.”

“If he considers that he should be the candidate, he has all the legitimacy and all the reasons to do it,” he added.

The PP has claimed at least 34 percent of the votes in all local elections since 1995 so anything below 30 percent would be considered a “severe punishment,” Floridablanca, a pro-market research group close to the party said. It would be “catastrophic” if the party failed to get the 25 percent it won in 1991, the group said on its website before the elections.

The PP won 6 million votes in the local ballot, 27 percent of the total, down from 8.5 million in 2011, according to Interior Ministry data. Its advantage over Socialists narrowed to 454,000 votes from 2.2 million.

‘Perfect for Conspiracies’

Rajoy insisted that he is “very comfortable” about leading his party into the general election due around the end of the year and doesn’t plan to make any changes to his government. The priority is to consolidate the economic recovery, the premier said after a meeting of the party’s executive committee.

“It’s the perfect environment for internal conspiracies,” Lluis Orriols, a political scientist at Madrid’s Carlos III University, said in a telephone interview. “The PP has lost a lot of ground which has called its leadership into question, but it’s not yet lost La Moncloa,” the premier’s official residence.

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