The former prime minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy, today returned to his former job as a property registrar in Santa Pola, Alicante. Rajoy arrived around 50 minutes late at his old office, where he is set to work every weekday from 9am to 5pm.
Journalists swarmed the former leader of the Popular Party (PP) outside the office on Wednesday morning, while a group of passers-by called out “Prime minister, prime minister!”
“I appreciate your presence. I know that you think this is news and that’s why you’re here. But I don’t have much more to add to what I have already said. I have retired from politics and returned to where I was before,” said a casually dressed Rajoy.
The former PM said he was not nervous about going back to his old job but admitted: “I have dedicated many years to political life and this is different.”
Rajoy resigned from his seat in Congress last Friday, a month after being ousted by a no-confidence motion filed by leader of the Spanish Socialists (PSOE) Pedro Sánchez, who has now become prime minister. Following his resignation, Rajoy requested to return to his former post as a property registrar, a civil service position that had been kept on hold for him since 1989.
He arrived in Santa Pola on Tuesday to take over from the current property registrar, Francisco Riquelme. Locals in the town, home to 35,000 people, were quick to snap photos of the former PM as he walked through the streets, and later share them on social media. He was seen strolling through the coastal town and eating at a restaurant – far removed from the ongoing heated battle to chose the next leader of the PP.
When asked about who should be the next head of the party, Rajoy made no comment. “There is a party conference scheduled and now it is the party members who must democratically choose who they want to be their president. What I say, frankly, is of little relevance,” he told journalists on Wednesday.
The former PM said he “had nothing to tell the candidates” other than that “life goes on.” He said that the PP “is a great party, the top political force,” and expressed his confidence that his successor “will do a good job,” whoever they may be.
Rajoy, who is staying in a hotel in Alicante, took the high-speed AVE train from Madrid and then transferred to Santa Pola. His appearance in the small town on Tuesday came as a surprise to many.
“We didn’t know anything about it. It has taken us by surprise. We found out via WhatsApp groups,” Loreto Cascales, the head of the Popular Party’s (PP) branch in Santa Pola, told EL PAÍS. “We are thrilled that a person who was not long ago the prime minister of Spain has returned to his working life with complete normality, without any fuss or press releases, like the gentleman he is. He will always be like this. He is an example for many to follow,” she said.
“We think he has come to make first contact with his new working life, like any citizen,” she added.
Rajoy will lead a team of seven people in his position as property registrar. “He is a very normal and very intelligent person and he will quickly pick things up,” said Riquelme. “He is eager to be on personal terms. He told staff, ‘Pleased to meet you; from now on we are going to work together as a team’.”
After working in Villafranca in León and Padrón in A Coruña, the former PM moved to Santa Pola in 1987 where he became the youngest-ever property registrar, at the age of just 24. He stayed in the post until 1989 when, lured by former PP Prime Minister José María Aznar, he went back into politics and secured a seat in Congress. But despite his successes in the field of politics, he never gave up the idea of going back to his post as a registrar – an issue that was controversial during his years as prime minister.
In 2014, during the local fiestas, Rajoy described Santa Pola as a town “where I voluntarily worked as a property registrar, where God willing I will work again after this parenthesis which, in my life, has meant the dedication to public issues.”
The 63-year-old former prime minister can ask to be transferred to, or for permission to work from, Madrid.
English version by Melissa Kitson.