“RAJOY is dead. He just hasn’t been buried yet,” said the former editor of Spain’s conservative ABC newspaper, although some will wonder whether the acting prime minister, with a talent for survival reminiscent of Rasputin, has one final act left in him.
With repeat elections on June 26, after months of political deadlock following December’s stalemate (though it must be noted the absence of real government is hardly noticeable on a street level), Rajoy’s Popular Party find themselves once again on course to win a plurality of seats, and once again to fall short of the majority they enjoyed from 2011-2015.
The latest polls indicate that the PP will win approximately 120 parliamentary seats out of 350, while Podemos look set to increase their share to around 90. This has pundits speculating that a Podemos-PSOE alliance could form a slight majority if the Socialists notch up 85 seats.
New life was breathed into that scenario this week as Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias announced that his anti-austerity party would no longer make a referendum on Catalonian independence a pre-requisite for coalition talks.
A grand coalition between the PP and PSOE remains a distinct possibility, as does the prospect of Rajoy forming a government with the help of fourth placed Ciudadanos, who could secure a crucial 40-50 seats.
The sticking point here is Rajoy, sinking into personal acrimony with his rival leaders, who analysts expect to demand his ousting as the price for the PP retaining power. With his deputy leader Soraya Saenz de Santamaria making waves as a youthful, passionate and relatively untarnished alternative, Rajoy might well face an internal revolt if his colleagues want to remain in government.
Change in the PP, however, doesn’t come easily and, having lost two consecutive general elections before becoming prime minister, Rajoy is certainly not one to back down from a fight.
“If I get 30 per cent of the vote and I am supposed to step down — what should the other party leaders do?” he asked this week, despite his personal ratings among voters being far below that of his party.