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Viewing cable 08MADRID691, SPAIN'S OPPOSITION PARTIDO POPULAR: RAJOY FIRMLY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MADRID691 2008-06-24 07:07 2010-12-03 12:12 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Madrid
VZCZCXRO1704
PP RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHMD #0691/01 1760733
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 240733Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4975
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHLA/AMCONSUL BARCELONA 3474
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MADRID 000691

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/WE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SP
SUBJECT: SPAIN'S OPPOSITION PARTIDO POPULAR: RAJOY FIRMLY
IN CONTROL FOR NOW, BUT MUST SHOW RESULTS

REF: MADRID 537

MADRID 00000691 001.2 OF 002


1. (U) Mariano Rajoy, the embattled head of Spain's main
opposition Partido Popular (PP), was re-elected as party
leader on June 21 during the three-day PP congress held in
Valencia. As reported in REFTEL, Rajoy's leadership had been
challenged on several fronts since his party lost a second
straight national election to President Zapatero's Spanish
Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) and it was unclear if he would
be able to hold on to power. Over the past few weeks,
would-be challengers found insufficient support for their
candidacy to unseat Rajoy and faded back into the woodwork,
leaving Rajoy to run unopposed. He further distanced himself
from the shadow of former President Jose Maria Aznar by
announcing a younger, more moderate party secretariat on June
19 that won plaudits from even left-leaning national
newspapers, and now appears to be basking in the glory of a
successfully-completed party congress. However, many in
Spain believe Rajoy has overcome only the first in a long
series of leadership battles in advance of the next round of
national elections in 2012, and he will need to show positive
results in off-year regional and European elections if he
hopes to have a third consecutive chance to grab the brass
ring of the Spanish presidency.

2. (U) Approximately 3,025 PP delegates gathered from 20-22
June in the seaside city of Valencia, Spain, to approve the
party's political platform for the next four years, under the
motto "We Grow Together." Over 84% of these delegates voted
for Rajoy to continue as party leader. This vote tally was
the lowest of any PP leader since the party was reformed in
1989, but should serve to silence critics for now. Rajoy was
coming off a tough 100-day period following the March 9
election loss and had to deal with tumult and dissension in
his party's ranks and open criticism from staunch PP members
such as Madrid Regional President Esperanza Aguirre, former
Interior Minister Jaime Mayor Oreja, Congressional foreign
policy spokesman Gustavo Aristegui, party communications
secretary Gabriel Elorriaga, and PP campaign strategist Juan
Costa. In addition, the popular leader of the PP's political
allies in the Basque Country, Maria San Gil, stated publicly
in May that she had lost confidence in the leadership of
Rajoy and his team. Nevertheless, opposition to Rajoy proved
to be a mile wide and an inch deep and faded away once it
became clear that no single alternative candidate had enough
support to overthrow the sitting leader.

//COMMENT//

3. (SBU) Rajoy appears to have put to rest for the time being
any doubts about his PP leadership, and his new team is
receiving generally positive reviews from across the
political spectrum. Pundits are highlighting not only the
collective experience and competence of the group gained from
positions at the local, regional, and national levels, but
also their backgrounds (including a single working mother)
designed to present a more moderate face and hopefully appeal
to a wider swath of Spanish voters. We believe Rajoy is
definitely strengthened coming out of the party conference
and has a mandate to reform the party in his own image--but
his new team will be expected to achieve results quickly if
he hopes to lead the party's national ticket in 2012. As we
have reportedly previously, we believe Rajoy owes his
longevity as much as anything to the lack of a credible
successor within his own party, but many are waiting in the
wings should he stumble again. Key off-year elections are
coming up in the Basque Country (scheduled for early 2009),
Galicia (June 2009), and the European Parliament (June 2009),
and PP supporters will demand to see positive results as
reward for having remained patient while Rajoy finds his way.

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AGUIRRE