Trouble follows the Aznar honeymoon ends
Monday 19 August 1996
"Could do better," was the grudging verdict of the important business newspaper Expansion, while the trade unions, initially disarmed by promises of dialogue and consensus, warn of trouble in the autumn when state companies are sold off and budget squeezes are due. A survey last week found that fewer than a third of Spaniards reckoned Mr Aznar had done a good job; women were particularly disenchanted.
Two weeks ago he decided to keep secret 18 intelligence documents requested by judges investigating undercover anti-terrorist hit squads. The decision, on grounds of "state security", suggests that despite strident election promises of openness, the Popular Party government is no more committed to transparency than its Socialist predecessor.
Commentators say the government, preoccupied with image and presentation, has so far limited itself to the modest objective of not screwing up. The result: too much of Mr Aznar's teeth and moustache on the front pages, plenty of announcements and few concrete measures. And - notwithstanding the Prime Minister's iron publicity machine - a few clangers.
An arranged marriage with Catalan and Basque nationalists, imposed by parliamentary arithmetic, turned unexpectedly into a solid partnership and produced a success in the first 100 days: a relatively honest and flexible anti-terrorist policy, something that eluded the previous government. Eta Basque separatists, still intact and capable of terrorist action at any moment, were wrong-footed by skilful actions from Madrid. Credit is due to the Interior Minister, Jaime Mayor Oreja, in collaboration with seasoned conservative Basque Nationalists. He undercut a key Eta demand by relocating prisoners, and reorganised police and security services.
Mr Mayor Oreja emerges as Mr Aznar's most popular minister, ahead of the two vice-presidents - the economy supremo, Rodrigo "Scissorhands" Rato, and the political hard-man, Francisco Alvaro Cascos.
Mr Rato has to squeeze Spain into the corset imposed by the demands of a single European currency by 1999, whilst keeping the unions on-side and welfare provisions intact. Despite brave promises of liberalisation, privatisation and tax cuts, economic policy to date has been timid, what Expansion calls "declarations of intent".
Mr Rato pledged to slash top posts by 5,000, only to find they numbered hundreds, half of them held by public servants who had to be redeployed. He announced pounds 1bn in spending cuts, leavened by investment-boosting measures whose effect so far has been negligible. The economy remains sluggish and a consumer boom elusive. He plugged an unforeseen budget "hole" by an improvised tax hike on spirits and tobacco, a decision that won public approval.
Mr Rato negotiated the crucial ruling pact with the Catalan nationalists, and will need every crumb of goodwill from that quarter, since the Catalan Convergence and Union party led by Jordi Pujol is cracking the whip, urging the government harder and faster down the road to fiscal austerity. Internationally, the government won a European extradition deal on terrorists but flip- flopped over Cuba - first supporting, then distancing itself from the US Helms-Burton act that punishes foreign firms, many of them Spanish, operating in Cuba. Closeness to France - the key to anti-Eta measures - looks set to replace the German friendship so treasured by the Socialists. The government is as barefaced as its predecessors in controlling state media, and placing friends in top public jobs. It has ditched everything experimental and avant-guard for the conventional, the "normal" - Mr Aznar's favourite word. Some fear, despite four female ministers, that this points to a more traditional role for women.
Socialist opposition has ranged from limp to mute. But the Socialist leader, Felipe Gonzalez, promises that this will change in September.
- 1 Astrological signs are almost all wrong, as movement of moon and sun throws out zodiac
- 2 Dad eats daughter's weed brownies, thinks he's had a stroke
- 3 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 4 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 5 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
Germanwings captain Patrick Sondenheimer tried to break into locked cockpit door 'with an axe' as plane was descending
Amanda Knox murder conviction: Italian court overturns verdict for US student and Raffaele Sollecito in the killing of Meredith Kercher
Saudi Arabia says it won't rule out building nuclear weapons
The battle for the Middle East's future begins in Yemen as Saudi Arabia jumps into the abyss
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz wanted to 'do something people would remember him for'
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...
£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...