Spanish PM Rajoy opens door to strategy changes ahead of election

Reuters News
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Posted: May 30, 2015 8:58 AM

SITGES, Spain (Reuters) - Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Saturday said he was open to strategy changes for the first time since his party suffered big losses in local polls last weekend, only months ahead of a general election.

Rajoy - whose center-right People's Party (PP) lost 2.5 million votes from four years ago in the municipal and regional polls - did not detail whether he would reshuffle his cabinet or alter policies.

But the premier, who has come under pressure from even within the PP ranks in recent days to change tack, acknowledged mistakes and said recent election results were unsatisfactory.

"It's clear there are some things we have not done well, we need to take note," Rajoy said at a conference attended by business leaders and politicians in Sitges, northern Spain. "There are things we have to change and we will do, although not when it comes to our economic policy."

The PP has been banking heavily on an economic recovery to secure a second term in office when the country votes in November, though the message has yet to convince voters.

Spain is growing again at one of the fastest paces in the euro zone, but nearly one in four of the workforce remains out of a job, and social inequalities are rising.

The governing party has also been dogged by corruption scandals, and Rajoy admitted that these "had hurt the PP."

New parties, including anti-austerity Podemos ('We Can') and market-friendly Ciudadanos (Citizens), have made big inroads with voters after campaigning hard against graft.

The PP still won the biggest share of votes in the May 24 election. But it lost its majority in many key regions, forcing it to make pacts with other parties in some, while it lost the power to govern in others such as Valencia.

Three former regional leaders said this week they would relinquish their positions, as they called for soul-searching within the party. Among the possible changes within the PP, Spanish media have reported that Maria Dolores de Cospedal, Secretary General of the party, could be given a new position.

(Reporting by Sarah White; Editing by Rosalind Russell)