Spain has voted today and Spaniards have punished the ruling Socialists and have decided to trust Mariano Rajoy Brey, the leader of the PP, who has been elected Prime Minister with a 16 percentage points over the Socialists (enough for an absolute majority in Parliament and a free hand to reform). The opposition leader was staging his third successive bid to head a national government, and this time, as all the opinion polls predicted, has got the Popular Party to win in a clear majority, after taking 186 of the 350 seats in the lower house. According to the official results, the PP has won the 45% of the votes and the Socialists 29% in Sundays’ General Elections.
Mariano Rajoy Brey was born 27 March 1955, in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, and graduated from the University of Santiago de Compostela. Aged 24 he passed the competitive examination required in Spain to enter into the civil service becoming the youngest ever property registrar.
Nobody has ever accused him of being charismatic, but he has surprised many in his own party for his survival skills, playing a waiting game since the crisis hit in 2008. Spain is going through a crisis of confidence, and what the country needs is a man it can trust. "At times of difficulty, people want sensible, realistic and prudent leaders," say his party colleagues. They also have said about him: "He is not a manipulator or a plotter, which is why the grassroots support him" and "He is where he is because of his own merits, his clarity, and his analysis of Spain's problems".
Rajoy has come a long way since the Socialists' surprise win in the 2004 elections. Defeat four years later unleashed a war of succession in the Popular Party that he has finally managed to contain, his enemies in the party were sharpening the knives, and there was open hostility toward him, questioning his leadership, but according to him now, it was one of those unhappy occasions that you learn from and that make you stronger.
His recently published autobiography, “En confianza” (In confidence), skips over this period of internal division within the party, referring sensitively to "breaks with party colleagues" and summarizing the whole episode as "painful." One senior colleague of the PP leader admits that there was a plot to get rid of Rajoy. But Rajoy knew where his support lay: in the party's grassroots. Rajoy won 84 percent of the vote at the 2008 party convention.
|Embraced by his wife after defeat in 2008 General Elections|
He is very intelligent and intuitive. Basically he is a good person, and a very human one," says Rajoy's protégé Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, the PP's spokeswoman in Congress. "He has avoided having to elbow people out of the way, or to have to fight. His career has been marked by discretion, patience, determination and perseverance. He is pragmatic, very smart and suspicious. And behind a wall of silences and courtesies hides a funny and sly type.
The key to Rajoy's survival is his ability to get the timing right. He is a master at this, because he seems to achieve his goals without seeming to do anything. He is sensible, frank, although some see him as hesitant and slow to react; but the truth is that he thinks things through," says Xavier Pomés, a member of the rightwing CiU Catalan nationalist bloc, and an old friend of the PP leader. Others who have worked with Rajoy from other parties agree that he is a man of his word, and that he would always meet his obligations.
"He also likes to talk about other things than politics. At Christmas, he likes to spend a little time with us just having a drink and chatting things over." "He is a moderate conservative, with a vision of the world influenced by his origins in Galicia, a vision that looks out to the Atlantic as well as being provincial. He has been able to run the party because he has been able to hold on to his centralist vision.
“It's not the system that has failed, but our leaders for not having controlled spending or implemented the changes that the euro required. The private sector has been allowed to slide into debt and now that money has to be repaid. We have lived beyond our means thanks to easy money. We live in a world in which thought has been replaced by spectacle”, he says in the book.
On a personal level, he is married to Elvira Fernandez (“Viri”, as friends call her) since 1996 after four years dating her and they have two children aged 12 and 6 and his wife, aged 45, lost a girl when she was six months pregnant. Elvira is a beautiful and intelligent woman, economist, discreet and a very good support for his husband.
This man who is defined as very familiar, says that what makes him laugh out loud are the wisecracks of his children. He loves cycling and is a big fan of Real Madrid football team. What he likes to do most at the end of the day is to read a good book in bed. He loves Police and The Beatles and the historical figure he most admires is Leonardo da Vinci.
In his book he talks about the need for structural reforms in the labor market, about education,... Rajoy is part of the moderate center right, distancing himself from the hard right that uses its position to stir up confrontation over issues such as abortion, same-sex marriages, or religious education. He identifies with entrepreneurs, even if it is a bar owner who only provides work for one other person. “We need big companies, but we also need small businesses. We need fewer rules, but ones that are respected”.
Related to his plans about the new government, when it comes to appoint a Minister, he has said age isn’t a problem for him. Rajoy has vowed to make cuts everywhere, except for pensions, so as to meet Spains’s target of cutting the public deficit to 4.4 per cent of gross domestic product in 2012 from 9.3 per cent last year and last Friday said that the country is going to comply with its deficit obligations.
Today, as the polls have talked today, this quietly spoken man, with his old-fashioned manners and politeness, will finally get the opportunity to show whether, as his supporters insist, it is true that "Mariano will make a better head of government than leader of the opposition." When he is called to ask for three wishes, he replies: employment, employment and employment.
Today the feeling of the 11 million people who have voted PP is a feeling of hope and illusion thinking that things are going to change for better.
It has been a long and hard road for this quiet politician to become Prime Minister, but now he has ahead a new and twisted road to cover. Congratulations and the best of luck to the new Prime Minister. For him but mainly for the sake of all Spaniards.