New Socialist leader Rubalcaba names team of familiar faces

Former deputy PM wins narrow victory over Carme Chacón

Following a narrow victory over his rival the previous day the new Socialist secretary general, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, on Sunday named a team full of familiar names whose first goals will be to iron out internal party divisions and win back disaffected voters by the next general elections.

"Tomorrow we have to stop analyzing why we lost the elections and start reflecting on how to win back the vote," said the successor of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, whose management of the economic crisis as Spanish prime minister is widely thought to have played a major role in the historic Socialist defeat at the polls last November.

Although Rubalcaba only gleaned 51 percent of the vote at the Seville party congress on Saturday, support for his executive team the next day was over 80 percent, even though neither his rival, Carme Chacón, nor any members of her own team are represented.

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"The winner takes it all and the loser loses all," lamented a party leader who supported Chacón.

The results underscore an effort to play down internal differences and foster party integration. "We all feel like winners," said Andalusian premier José Antonio Griñán, who is now also the new party president.

"Once the secretary general has been chosen, he is the one we want. Now it's time to get down to work," said Tomás Gómez, of the Madrid Socialists, who had been a Chacón supporter.

Chacón herself has declined a position in any capacity on Rubalcaba's new team. Both candidates spoke after the vote in what has been described as a "relaxed" meeting, and Chacón reportedly asked the winner to appoint an "executive of unity" given how tight his victory was, 487 to 465.

Rubalcaba's long-running battle against Chacón, first to represent the party in November's general elections and later for the position of secretary general, evidenced fracture lines between Socialist sympathizers who viewed Rubalcaba, 60, as the candidate of continuity and Chacón, 40 and a woman, as a new face for a party in need of change.

Rubalcaba was a top Zapatero aide during much of his two terms in office, but stepped down to run as the main candidate in the elections, which were won by Mariano Rajoy of the Popular Party. Chacón was defense minister in Zapatero's administration.

Rubalcaba, a veteran who also served under former Socialist leader Felipe González, has added eight familiar faces to a team where his top aide will be his former campaign manager during the general elections, Elena Valenciano.

Rubalcaba hugs Carme Chacón after the results of the leadership contest.
Rubalcaba hugs Carme Chacón after the results of the leadership contest.GARCÍA CORDERO
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