Rajoy Resists Changes to Spanish Voting Law That Bolsters Power

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy rejected calls by a rival to loosen control over his allies in parliament, deepening divisions in the ruling party.

Speaking at a conference in Madrid today, Rajoy said, “I’ll never change electoral law with a simple majority.”

Rajoy is digging in as a recession and corruption allegations weaken support for his 14-month-old government. Esperanza Aguirre, a former minister who challenged Rajoy for leadership of his People’s Party in 2008 and has led the criticism of his handling of the graft allegations, called on him to open up the voting system last week.

Under the current set-up, Rajoy names candidates and the order in which they appear on the electoral lists, giving him control over allocating jobs. Without the direct support of voters, Spanish dissenters have no protection from their party leaders, so parliamentary rebellions are unheard of.

Rajoy’s PP saw its support drop to 24 percent from 30 percent a month earlier in a poll by Metroscopia published by El Pais on Feb. 3, wiping out its advantage over the opposition Socialists. Metroscopia’s margin of error was 3.2 percentage points.

El Pais, the biggest-selling daily newspaper, reported that Rajoy and other senior PP officials received illegal cash payments from former party treasurer Luis Barcenas. Rajoy has denied the claims in a televised statement.

Rajoy said critics of the status quo shouldn’t underestimate the challenge of building a consensus in a country that was torn apart by civil war in the 1930s and passed its democratic constitution 35 years ago.

“You need to look at the context in which this was done,” he said today. “We needed to bring together -- and we managed to -- people who were returning from exile, who didn’t even live in Spain, with people who had been ministers in the previous regime.”

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