Spain’s prime minister is on the way out. The only question is when Oct 21st 2010 | Madrid
CAN things get any worse for José Luis RodríguezZapatero, Spain’s beleaguered prime minister? Probably not. Austerity measures, labour reform and strikes have taken their toll: opinion polls show support for his Socialist Party plummeting to 29%, whileunemployment, at over 20%, remains twice the euro-zone average. Speculation is rife over who will succeed Mr Zapatero as party leader, and whether he will step down before or after the next generalelection, due in 2012.
Hoping to secure his survival for the next 18 months, on October 20th Mr Zapatero unveiled a cabinet reshuffle. Out went Miguel Ángel Moratinos, the long-serving foreign minister,to be replaced by Trinidad Jiménez, the health minister and a favourite of Mr Zapatero’s. Two ministries were scrapped entirely. Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, the veteran interior minister, adds the jobs ofdeputy prime minister and government spokesman to his portfolio.
A few days earlier Mr Zapatero had sealed a pact with the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) to ensure the passage of his minoritygovernment’s budget. Mr Zapatero’s boosters said the deal would help keep the prime minister in his job until 2012. Iñigo Urkullu, the PNV’s leader, gave no guarantee, but said that Mr Zapatero shouldreach the finishing line. In return, his party has won further transfers of power and money to the already highly devolved Basque regional government.
The reshuffle and the pact will free the Socialiststo focus on a number of electoral contests to come—and to decide whether Mr Zapatero is the man to lead them into battle. The prospect of a series of heavy losses in regional elections over the nexteight months, starting with Catalonia on November 28th, has started to concentrate minds within the party.
In early October Mr Zapatero suffered his first big internal party defeat. In a primary...