Spain conservatives pick successor to ex-PM Rajoy

Pablo Casado

Spain's conservative Popular Party (PP) has chosen last week right-wing congressman Pablo Casado to replace Mariano Rajoy as leader after the former PM was ousted in a no-confidence vote in June. The appointment of the 37-year-old communication chief, who has promised “hope” with a generational revamp of the party, is seen as a swing to the right for it.

Casado has taken a hardline stance on the Catalan independence crisis, calling for the addition of offences, such as illegally calling a referendum, to the criminal code to boost Spain's legal response to the secession threat. He is also against decriminalising euthanasia as promoted by the Socialist government and wants to lower income and corporate taxes.

Ahead of regional, municipal and European elections next year, Casado now has to breathe life into a party which lost 3 million voters between the 2011 general elections, when Rajoy won an absolute majority, and the last polls in 2016. Especially after many have migrated to Ciudadanos, a centre-right party, angry over the series of corruption scandals that hit the PP in recent years.

“[I want you] to excite our voters, and start preparing a winning project for the next elections,” he said to members of the PP after the vote.

Rajoy's ousting was partly seen as a censure for his handling of the Catalan independence crisis, and a perception that he was weak on rooting out graft. After an acrimonious campaign, 3,082 delegates cast their ballot for the successor of Rajoy, and 57% of them voted in favour of Casado.

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