Rubalcaba defiant despite northern exposure at ballot box

Socialist leader quashes resignation speculation after party’s battering in Basque and Galician regional polls

“Nobody has asked me to resign. Nobody, never. Not in my office, nor by telephone, or even in a tweet. I have not thought about resigning. I am not thinking of resigning. My colleagues chose me eight months ago and I will finish the task, right to the end.”

Socialist leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba on Wednesday broke his silence following the party’s weekend mauling at the ballot boxes in Galicia and the Basque Country, quashing speculation that he was to step down. Rubalcaba conceded that the Socialists are going through “a very difficult time,” and that he would be undertaking “a self-critical reflection,” after voters roundly rejected the party in Sunday’s regional elections.

In the Basque Country, where Socialist regional premier Patxi López was bidding to remain in power, the party suffered a reduction in assembly representation of 25 to 16 members, while in Galicia -- Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s home region and a traditional stronghold of the Popular Party (PP) – the Socialists slumped to 18 seats from 25 three years earlier.

In the aftermath of the Socialist reverse, European Parliament member and former minister Juan Fernando López Aguilar noted that “Spaniards no longer look to the PSOE as an alternative” to the center-right PP.

However, Rubalcaba remained defiant during Wednesday’s press conference, stating that he would only step down “if the majority of my party asks me to.” The Socialist leader triumphed over Carme Chacón at a party congress earlier this year and has a mandate to head the grouping until 2016.

Rubalcaba’s number two, Elena Valenciano, blamed the poor results on a “negative electoral cycle” that was bequeathed to the party during the final throes of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s premiership. Valenciano stated that the party would enter into a period of “ideological renewal” in an attempt to win back voters.

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