Time to go Mr Rajoy? Latest poll reveals most voters want PM to quit

Survey shows 85% of Spaniards say veteran politician should hand PP leadership to someone else

Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy.
Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy.JUAN MEDINA (REUTERS)
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A majority of Spanish voters – including many of those who support the governing Popular Party (PP) – feel that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy should hand the leadership to someone else, according to a recent opinion poll.

A survey carried out by Metroscopia for EL PAÍS last week shows that 85% of Spaniards feel that Rajoy should let someone else take the reins of the conservative party. More significantly, 62% of people who voted for him in the past believe that his time “is over.”

Rajoy took over the PP 14 years ago and has run for Spain’s top office five times

Rajoy, 62, has been in politics for nearly four decades and he is the most veteran of Spain’s political leaders. He is the only one who remains at the helm of his party after all other groups – and even Spanish institutions such as the Crown – have renewed their leadership.

Rajoy took over the PP 14 years ago and has run for Spain’s top office five times. He lost the first two general elections to the Socialist Party (PSOE) candidate, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and the consecutive defeats triggered an internal rebellion led by former Madrid regional premier Esperanza Aguirre, who was viewed by many as a potential replacement for Rajoy.

But the dissent was short-lived thanks to Rajoy’s control over regional party organizations, and despite his own growing differences with his predecessor and one-time mentor, José María Aznar.

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera in Spanish Congress.
Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera in Spanish Congress.Juan Carlos Hidalgo (EFE)

Rajoy’s victory at the 2011 elections dispelled any remaining dissidence, and for years his decisions went unquestioned. But the economic crisis gave rise to two protest groups – Podemos on the left and Ciudadanos on the center-right – that began eroding the two-party system in place for the last 36 years.

The December 2015 election yielded a hung parliament and there was a repeat vote in June 2016, when the PP narrowly managed to form a minority government.

But the economic crisis, a string of corruption cases and the situation in Catalonia have all made a dent in the Spanish leader’s image.

The economic crisis, a string of corruption cases and the situation in Catalonia have all made a dent in the Spanish leader’s image

The next general election is not due before 2020, and this time Rajoy’s personal strategy of victory through resistance may not work – especially considering that his main rival, the much younger Albert Rivera of Ciudadanos, is taking as many as 2.2 million voters away from the PP.

The recent opinion poll also shows that Ciudadanos would be the most-voted option were an election to be held today, with 28.3% support from Spanish voters, compared with 21.9% for the PP and 20.1% for the PSOE.

PSOE pain

The PSOE is also starting to feel the pressure from Ciudadanos, whose reform-oriented platform is attracting Socialist voters as well. The latest survey shows the veteran PSOE losing around 900,000 votes to the upstart party, which has a lead of over eight percentage points.

Although PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez has sought to downplay the situation by saying he does not feel any concern about the “league of the right,” the figures are cause for alarm. This is compounded by the fact that 17% of people who voted Socialist in 2016 now say they are undecided, which could make them either stay at home or switch allegiances on election day.

Meanwhile, Sánchez’s hopes of attracting disappointed Podemos voters to his cause are not yielding the desired results: while some supporters of the anti-austerity party are turning to the PSOE, this figure does not nearly make up for the losses to Ciudadanos.

This could be partly explained by the fact that only 39% of Socialist voters think their party has a clear plan for the future of Spain. Among Ciudadanos voters, this figure shoots up to 79%.

English version by Susana Urra.

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