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POLITICS

Popular Party prepares to call out ex-PM Aznar for tough election race

Party leader Rajoy wants his predecessor to help him court most conservative voters

Aznar and Rajoy embrace during a PP rally in 2011. Ampliar foto
Aznar and Rajoy embrace during a PP rally in 2011.

With a busy election year now underway, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his team have decided to use everything they have to reach out to their traditional voting base: the ultra conservatives.

The Popular Party (PP) fears a disastrous race and has called on its members to close ranks. Not only is the PP trying to appeal to conservatives by sending out messages to victims of terrorism, it also wants to give former Prime Minister José María Aznar a bigger role in the campaign.

Aznar, who has distanced himself from Rajoy over the past few years, is expected to attend the party’s political conference this weekend. PP officials want to give him greater responsibility and a greater presence than he had during last year’s European election campaign.

Party sources said many voters across the regions have been asking for Aznar and want the PP to take its time in preparing his public appearances as honorary president.

Aznar never liked being called up at the last minute by third parties to be asked to participate at rallies

But the political differences between Aznar and Rajoy appear to be unresolvable. Everyone inside the PP knows what the rifts involve: Aznar has never liked Rajoy’s politics and his manner of governing.

He made this clear during a 2013 interview with Spain’s Antena 3 television network, when he called on the prime minister to establish “a clear political project” for Spain’s future. Aznar even hinted then that he might venture back into front-line politics.

This wasn’t the first time that the rocky relations between the two PP leaders had been revealed since Aznar cast off the likes of former Economy Minister Rodrigo Rato, who went on to become IMF director, to select Rajoy as his successor in 2003.

Aznar’s supporters have always maintained that the former prime minister regretted his decision. But he always assured them that he would never abandon the PP and would always be there for them.

And this is what is occurring now. According to analysts, Rajoy needs to capture every vote possible and Aznar is delighted to return to the front line of the campaign.

The problems with Aznar have always been deep-rooted, even though the differences have not always be evident.

He never liked being called up at the last minute by third parties to be asked to participate at rallies. This is what happened during the European race when PP Deputy Secretary General Carlos Floriano telephoned the secretary general of Aznar’s private conservative think-tank Foundation for Social Studies and Analysis (FAES) to invite the former prime minister to help out in the campaign.

Aznar bemoaned the fact that everything had been arranged at the last minute, and was unable to participate, except during a rally to present Miguel Arias Cañete as the top candidate on the PP slate – and that only occurred when Arias Cañete personally called the former prime minister to ask him to attend.

There is no doubt that poor relations exist between Aznar and Rajoy, but they seem to be played down when elections are near. The two leaders are ready to come together to fulfill their shared objective of trying to capture the greatest number of votes for the PP. This occurred in 2011 in Seville when Aznar threw his arms around Rajoy to show everyone that the PP was ready to return to government.