Rubalcaba leaves government to head Socialist campaign

Zapatero to announce replacement as deputy PM early this week

After weeks of speculation Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba announced Friday he was stepping down from the government with "immediate effect" to prepare the Socialist Party's (PSOE) campaign for the general elections due next year.

"The moment has come," Rubalcaba told a news conference after the weekly Cabinet meeting. He said he had told Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero after the Socialist's federal committee on May 28 designated him to lead the PSOE's ticket at the general elections that he would resign from the government when he was officially named the Socialist candidate for prime minister, an event due to take place tomorrow.

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He said it was up to Zapatero when he should officially step down from all his posts. "Formally, I am still deputy prime minister, but politically no," he said. Zapatero is expected to officially relieve Rubalcaba of his posts and announce his replacements as interior and deputy prime minister on Monday or Tuesday.

Rubalcaba insisted that up until now there had been no incompatibility between his duties as a minister and his role as Socialist candidate for prime minister in the elections. "From here on my role as a candidate would make duties within the government more difficult," he said. From tomorrow, "I will be fully committed to my party," he added.

He said he felt "comfortable" with his decision because that is what he has to do.

Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba in the press conference after the Cabinet meeting.
Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba in the press conference after the Cabinet meeting.
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