Socialist candidate Rubalcaba takes left turn

Anti-banker rhetoric among recent moves designed to woo back disaffected voters

The Socialist candidate for the next general elections, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, has begun courting disaffected leftwing voters by portraying himself as opposed to the banks and their attitude during the economic crisis. Rubalcaba, who is currently deputy prime minister, now seeks to disassociate himself from the image of a Socialist government widely perceived to have sold out to the country's main bankers and business leaders and to have consulted with them to develop its unpopular austerity measures, including labor and pension reforms.

Since Rubalcaba was appointed official candidate for elections due next March, the Socialist government has begun making nods to the 15-M protest movement: in the last week it has announced a reform to help mortgage defaulters and the planned special release of ?8 billion for public health.

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Rubalcaba also asked whether the banks ought to shoulder more responsibility for the crisis, remarks which were criticized by the opposition Popular Party. On Sunday, the Socialist Party executive committee supported Rubalcaba's statements "without question, because we believe he is right," in the words of spokesman Marcelino Iglesias.

Banking executives did not take the criticism well, and privately feel the remarks are being made for electoral purposes. The Spanish Banking Association AEB said these comments "can't refer to Spanish banks, which did not receive public help, but to big foreign banks and other lenders that received major capital injections." Spain's public regional savings banks, known as cajas, have been heavily refinanced en route to conversion into fully commercial entities.

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