MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy named a new campaign manager on Thursday in an attempt to recapture the initiative after poor election results last month diminished his authority.
Rajoy, speaking as head of the ruling People’s Party (PP), admitted errors in strategy and said local and regional election results, in which the PP shed 2.5 million votes, had been bad.
But he portrayed his conservative party, which faces a challenge from two new radical movements at parliamentary elections later this year, as the only guarantor of stability.
After weeks of speculation and media leaks suggesting significant changes in the ruling party, he named his current chief of staff Jorge Moragas as campaign manager, replacing Carlos Floriano, and announced several second-line changes.
Against expectations, his much-criticized party secretary, Maria Dolores de Cospedal, held onto her position.
It is not clear if further changes in Rajoy’s government will follow, but the shake-up at the PP was significantly less than had been anticipated.
Rajoy has been widely criticized for pinning his ticket on a recovering economy which has nevertheless left many Spaniards practically untouched, with unemployment affecting one in four.
In a live televised speech, Rajoy noted that the PP had managed to avoid a bailout during the euro zone crisis and had acted “decisively” to stamp out corruption — although dozens of the party’s former members are being investigated by magistrates in graft cases, and corruption is high on the list of problems as perceived by Spaniards in polls.
“We have made progress, great progress, but not so much as to provide jobs and security for the Spaniards who do not have it,” he said.
The PP is set to win a general election before the end of the year, according to polls, but the race will be close and Rajoy’s approval ratings have slumped.
The PP’s worst result in municipal elections since 1991 means many town halls are now in the hands of rivals after cross-party pacts, including former PP bastions Madrid and Valencia.
New parties Podemos and Ciudadanos, deploying more voter-friendly rhetoric, have emerged to rival the established PP and Socialist party by focusing on cleaning up politics and redressing inequality.
Reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary; Editing by Mark Trevelyan