Spain’s socialist opposition leader Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba is trying to make the most of graft allegations against Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
His campaign to get Rajoy to quit brings back memories of when the Socialist Party was ejected from power in the 90s after their one-time nemesis Jose Maria Aznar kept up a drumbeat for then-premier Felipe Gonzalez throw in the towel amid his own corruption scandals.
Rubalcaba’s campaign to force Rajoy to “give up, leave it” echoes the refrain Aznar used to hammer Gonzalez in parliament, one of the best known in Spanish politics, “Vayase, Senor Gonzalez” — “Leave, Mr Gonzalez.”
Rajoy has denied El Pais reports that he accepted more than 250,000 euros ($333,000) in illegal cash payments over an 11-year period from former ruling PP party treasurer Luis Barcenas.
Yet Rubalcaba’s tactic carries risks for the opposition leader, who is facing mutterings of dissent from his party over his failure to lay a glove on a prime minister who’s seen 850,000 jobs destroyed during his first year in office.
While the corruption allegations cut support for Rajoy’s Partido Popular by 6 percentage points in a month, according to a Metroscopia poll published by El Pais on Feb. 3, Rubalcaba hasn’t benefited so far. The two parties were tied on 24 percent in a poll at the beginning of the month, where Rubalcaba has been languishing for the past year.
Rubalcaba has attacked Rajoy for cutting benefits for workers and accused him of undermining health care and education and protecting Barcenas instead of addressing the allegations against his party. “Give up, leave it. You can’t resolve the political crisis that Spain is facing,” he told Rajoy in Parliament on Feb. 13.
However, Rubalcaba’s campaign may not match the success of Aznar’s, which felled Gonzalez in 1996.
“The trouble with Rubalcaba is he’s associated with defeat,” said Nigel Townson, a history professor at Madrid’s Complutense University. Rubalcaba lost the 2011 election to Rajoy by 18 points. The Socialists “have to find someone younger, more dynamic and more credible.”