Rajoy Waves Off Vow to Spanish Ally as Polls Strengthen Hand

Updated on
  • Premier wins re-election as party leader with 95% of vote
  • Polls show support for Socialists, Ciudadanos is slipping

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy signaled he’s ready to breach the pact that allowed him to take office for a second term last year as polling trends strengthen his position against his political rivals.

Rajoy said in an interview with Television Espanola Monday that he doesn’t plan to introduce term limits for Spanish premiers, a measure his party lieutenants had promised in exchange for the support of Ciudadanos in a confidence vote in October.

Mariano Rajoy on Feb. 12.

Photographer: Curto De La Torre CURTO/AFP via Getty Images

“It should be voluntary, that’s my opinion,” Rajoy told the state broadcaster, a day after he was confirmed as president of the ruling People’s Party. “We will talk to Ciudadanos and everyone” about the issue.

Rajoy said no European country has such restriction and that’s it’s more suited to a presidential system. A press officer for Ciudadanos declined to comment.

While Rajoy is running a minority government after Ciudadanos and anti-establishment Podemos got almost one third of the 350-seat lower chamber, the latest polls suggest that the governing party would emerge strengthened from another snap election. Support for Rajoy’s People’s Party has held firm since June’s vote while the Socialists, the biggest opposition group, are in disarray after ousting their leader to let Rajoy take office.

Polling Shifts

The PP has the support of 33 percent of voters while the Socialists have slipped to 18.6 percent from 22.7 percent in the last election, according to a poll last month by state-owned CIS based on 2,490 interviews with a margin of error of 2 percentage points. Ciudadanos was on 12.4 percent compared with 13 percent in June, while the anti-establishment party Podemos rose to 21.7 percent from 21.1 percent.

“I won’t call elections,” said Rajoy.

After facing unrest in the ranks last year as he clung to power, Rajoy sealed his comeback from economic crisis, financial scandal and a partial election defeat this weekend when he was re-elected president of the PP at a conference in Madrid. The prime minister won 95 percent of the vote from party’s delegates, who were untroubled by the party’s ongoing legal problems. Party officials are scheduled to testify in court Monday over the alleged exchange of kickbacks for public contracts. The PP denies any wrongdoing.

“Rajoy’s party is in power without facing a proper opposition,” said Antonio Barroso, a London-based analyst at Teneo Intelligence. “That’s creates incentives for cohesion.”