Popular Party prepares to battle the Spanish left for young voters

Conservatives also targeting new party Ciudadanos in bid to prevent debacle at elections

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy wants to win back young disaffected voters.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy wants to win back young disaffected voters.Ballesteros (EFE)

With the general election looming ever closer, the center-right Popular Party (PP) is preparing to join the battle for young voters that leftist forces are currently winning.

The PP’s political conference, which is due to start this Friday, will feature no specific proposals for the upcoming campaign run, nor introduce any innovative internal procedures – such as party primaries – that have already been embraced by other political groups.

The PP is targeting the Ciudadanos leader to undermine his image as a modern politician who can cut across ideological boundaries

Instead, the PP wants to talk ideology. And above all, it wants to win back young disaffected citizens who have turned to new options such as anti-austerity Podemos and Ciudadanos, an anti-corruption party that has struck deals with both the PP and the Socialists in the wake of the May 24 regional and municipal elections.

As a result of those elections, many Spanish city councils and regional governments have reverted to leftist governments after decades of conservative rule. The PP’s poor showing has served as a wake-up call for Spain’s ruling party, which could be headed for a debacle in the fall.

To that effect, Mariano Rajoy’s party has already adopted a harsher tone against Ciudadanos and its leader, Albert Rivera, who will be running for prime minister on the message that he is the only candidate with the ability to bring all parties to the negotiating table for national consensus-building.

After attacking Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias and Socialist secretary general Pedro Sánchez for several weeks, the PP is now setting its sights on Rivera in a bid to undermine his image as a young and modern politician who can cut across ideological boundaries.

But some PP officials admit that their own party’s finger-in-the-eye rhetoric may be doing more harm than good.

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera is the new enemy to beat, the PP feels.
Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera is the new enemy to beat, the PP feels.Susanna Sáez (EFE)

“We need to break with that discourse, and prove that the growth policies and reforms we have implemented are the best way for a young person to develop a life project and find a job,” said Andrea Levy, deputy secretary for study programs.

Levy insisted that youngsters’ dissatisfaction with politics should not become a gift to the political left.

In a bid to appear younger and more modern itself, the PP will use the political conference to introduce four young new vice-secretaries. The event will include lectures followed by rounds of questions from the audience, illustrating how the party is now open to street-level debate.

However, the PP is still balking at the idea of holding party primaries, the way the Socialists, Ciudadanos, Podemos and Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) are already doing. Prime Minister Rajoy joked about it on Wednesday: “It’s true that primaries are all the rage now. All parties have held primaries, and not one has presented more than one candidate,” he said.

English version by Susana Urra.

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