INTERVIEW: Can Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba Lead Spain Out Of Economic Disaster?

Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba

Photo: AP

Spanish ruling party candidate Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba ignores opinion polls which suggest he lost a recent debate. Rubalcaba says that he did well in the face-to-face with opposition leader Mariano Rajoy
because it allowed him to articulate his points, unveil things his opponent has been hiding and show that there are two very different ways out of the crisis.

Q: What would you say to those who say that in the debate you took the position of opposition party leader and that you let Rajoy have the presidential role?

A: Well, what the analysts weren’t counting on is that the crowd knows what Rajoy will do if he wins the elections. Up until now it has looked like he will win. But today I am more confident about winning than I was before Monday’s debate.

Q: Are you happy with how the campaign has developed? Do you think voters are becoming more decisive?

A: Yes, I am satisfied because my goal in this campaign is to explain my program for Spain. And I think that I am doing that. We had an intense start to the campaign with some really crowded election rallies in Seville and Valencia, and we have made some important leaps forward thanks to this latest debate in particular.

On that night it was really clear that there are two models for the next two years of Spain’s future. The one that Rajoy backs, which would mean the dismantling our welfare state, and the one that I am proposing, which strives for austerity and spending discipline, but guarantees a minimum level of social welfare. We have put some important issues on the table, such as healthcare and education.

The opposition party doesn’t want to debate them. When campaigning it is important to stand strong, explain yourself clearly and be open to difficult or uncomfortable situations. I am doing those things, because I cannot conceive of another form of politics.

Q: Are you also optimistic about Spain’s future?

A: I am increasingly optimistic. In Spain the progressive majority is growing and I think that, if we nail the elections, this kind of voter, who is at once demanding but responsible, is identifying more and more with the model we envision for getting out of the crisis. It is a model that can be summed up in one phrase: get out together without leaving anyone behind.

The model is based on austerity and rigour, but also in investments that can recharge our economy. We can’t keep spending so much time on adjustments. We should put policies in place that incentivise investment, create companies, drive enterprise.

Q: With Italy in full crisis mode, do you think that the EU will listen?

A: I think that what has happened over the past few days we will end up agreeing with those who said that to return to growth and to create jobs we have to keep using one basic recipe based on some extreme diet. Now isn’t time for optimism or pessimism. It is time to be realistic and make decisions.

You just have to look at what has happened in the past few days to see that the worst situation is in Italy. We are all going through hard times, and there are people that are badly off. I know that we are going to get out and I am hopeful about the Spanish economy’s ability to do so. We have endured challenges before and we will again, though it won’t be easy.

This post originally appeared at El Economista.

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