Gonzalez delays decision on minister's future

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IT WAS officially entitled 'The Law for the Protection of Citizens' Security'. But it was soon dubbed by the press as the 'Kick in the Door Law' since it would have given police the power to enter homes without a warrant. Defending the legislation as an essential tool in the war against drugs, its architect, the Interior Minister, Jose Luis Corcuera, had said he would resign if its key parts were rejected.

On Wednesday, Spain's Constitutional Court did just that, ruling the key clauses unconstitutional and an infringement of citizens' rights. True to his word, Mr Corcuera yesterday offered his resignation to the Prime Minister, Felipe Gonzalez, who put off making a decision until next week.

'I don't think there's any reason for him to resign,' a harassed Mr Gonzalez said. There was, however, a distinct half-heartedness in his response as he added: 'But we'll see'. Asked whether he would have to reshuffle his team, the Prime Minister replied: 'Even if there were a change of minister, that doesn't mean a cabinet reshuffle'.

The latest crisis over a key part of Mr Gonzalez's policies, particularly the fight against drugs which was the whole point of the law, could hardly have come at a worse time for the Prime Minister. Hanging on to power by his fingertips with a minority government, he has been forced to go virtually begging to Catalan nationalists for enough votes to pass next year's budget. He faces soaring unemployment, stubborn inflation, daily-emerging corruption cases and a steady swing towards the centre and right that has forced him to ease himself in the same direction.

His attempt to delay a decision on Mr Corcuera may have been to avoid instability during one of the key weekends in the Spanish calendar. Today is the 18th anniversary of the death of the dictator Francisco Franco, whenright-wingers hold marches and Masses in his memory. This sends shivers through much of the rest of Spain; many saw the 'Kick In The Door' law, though proposed by Socialists, as a return to Francoist tactics.