A MAJORITY of Spanish voters, including many of those who support the governing Popular Party (PP), believe that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy should hand the leadership to someone else.
A recent opinion poll, carried out by Metroscopia for El País daily newspaper, shows that 85% of Spaniards feel that Rajoy should let someone else take the reins of the conservative party.
More significantly, though, is that 62% of people who voted for him in the past believe that his time “is over”.
Rajoy took over the PP party 14 years ago, and has run for Spain’s top office five times. The 62-year-old has been in politics for nearly four decades, and is the most veteran of Spain’s political leaders.
He is the only one who remains at the helm of his party because all other groups, and even Spanish institutions such as the Crown, have renewed their leadership.
Rajoy lost the first two general elections to the Socialist Party (PSOE) candidate José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and the consecutive defeats triggered an internal rebellion, led by former Madrid regional premier Esperanza Aguirre, who was viewed by many as a potential replacement for Rajoy.
But the dissent was short-lived, thanks to Rajoy’s control over regional party organisations, and despite his own growing differences with his predecessor and one-time mentor, José María Aznar.
Rajoy’s 2011 Election victory dispelled any remaining dissidence, and, for years, his decisions went unquestioned. But the economic crisis gave rise to two protest groups: Podemos, on the left and Ciudadanos, on the centre-right.
Between them, they began eroding the two-party system, which had been in place for the last 36 years.
The December 2015 election yielded a hung parliament, and there was a repeat vote in June 2016, when the PP managed to form a minority government.
But the economic crisis, and a string of corruption cases, together with the Catalonia situation, have all made a dent in the Spanish leader’s image.
The next General Election is not scheduled before 2020, and, this time, Rajoy’s personal strategy of victory through resistance may not work, especially as his main rival, the much younger Albert Rivera, of Ciudadanos, is taking as many as 2.2 million voters away from the PP.
The recent opinion poll also shows that Ciudadanos would be the most-voted option were an election to be held today, with 28.3% support from Spanish voters, compared with 21.9% for the PP and 20.1% for the PSOE.
The latter party is also starting to feel the pressure from Ciudadanos, whose reform-oriented platform is attracting Socialist voters as well.
The latest survey shows the veteran PSOE losing around 900,000 votes to the upstart party, which has a lead of over eight percentage points.
Although PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez has sought to downplay the situation by saying he does not feel any concern about the “league of the right,” the figures are cause for alarm.
This is compounded by the the 17% of people who voted Socialist in 2016, who now say they are undecided, which could make them either stay at home, or switch allegiances on election day.
Meanwhile, the Sánchez hopes of attracting disappointed Podemos voters to his cause are not yielding the desired results.
And while some supporters of the anti-austerity party are turning to the PSOE, this figure hardly makes up for the losses to Ciudadanos.
This could be explained, in part, because just 39% of Socialist voters believe their party has a clear plan for Spain’s future. And among Ciudadanos voters, this figure shoots up to 79%.
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