PM to keep mum over re-election at party congress

Putting to rest ongoing speculation, Socialist sources say that Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero won't divulge next Saturday during a top party congress whether or not he intends to run for a third term.

Zapatero will appear before the party's federal committee next weekend to discuss the international and domestic crises and how the Spanish government intends to deal with the challenges ahead. He will also talk about the May 22 regional and local elections in Madrid, Valencia and other areas, but he won't make any formal announcement as to whether he intends to step down or run in next year's race, sources close to the prime minister said.

Some of the top party's regional leaders, commonly referred to as the "barons," have said that they believed that Zapatero would announce plans to step aside. But government sources insist that, because Spain is facing a severe crisis, including military action in Libya and the collapse of the neighboring Portuguese government, the prime minister intends to concentrate on the current dilemmas rather than get caught up in a campaign-swing mode.

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Meanwhile, Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy is invoking the political crisis in Lisbon as a reason to call early elections in Spain. Speaking in Brussels, where he attended the European People's Party conference, which took place before the summit of EU leaders, Rajoy reiterated his call for an early race in Spain. "When a government is faring badly, sometimes the best thing that can happen is an about-turn and that about-turn is to call for elections. I suppose that this is what all the parties in Portugal understood."

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