DE RUEHMD #0043 0161221
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161221Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 4074
UNCLAS MADRID 000043
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PGOV ECON SP SUBJECT: MANUEL PIZARRO TO RUN AS MARIANO RAJOY'S NUMBER TWO ON THE PP MADRID PARLIAMENTARY LIST
1. The opposition conservative PP leader, Mariano Rajoy, announced on 1/15/08 that the former head of energy utility Endesa, Manuel Pizarro, would occupy the number two spot on the PP's Madrid parliamentary list. Rajoy has the number one spot on the list. Should the PP win, Pizarro would likely take Second Vice President and Finance Minister Solbes' job. Pizarro has been close to the PP for many years and is a friend of Jose Maria Aznar's. He reportedly turned down a chance to join Aznar's government in 1996 in order to concentrate on business. From 2005 to 2007, he defended energy giant Endesa against a hostile takeover bid from Gas Natural that the socialist government favored. He was partially successful in that Gas Natural eventually bowed out of the contest to buy Endesa. In the end, Germany's Eon (the company favored by Pizarro) was able to acquire some of Endesa's assets, but the Zapatero government was able to ensure that major parts of the company remained in the hands of Spanish construction firm Acciona and an Italian utility (Enel). Pizarro is 56 years old and a graduate of University Complutense de Madrid. At the age of 29, he became a "State Lawyer" (Abogado del Estado), which is a prestigious merit-based position. Pizarro is also a member of the Royal Academy of Economic and Financial Sciences. The former head of Endesa is wealthy. Upon leaving the company in 2007, he received euros 12 million after having been paid over euros 3 million in 2006.
2 Comment: Spanish commentators are having a field day with the announcement. Most observers think that Rajoy has come up with a winner with this recruit to the PP cause for two reasons. First, whatever people think of Pizarro's politics, he is widely respected for his professionalism and tenacity. Although he is not an academic economist, many people think he is a worthy opponent to Zapatero's Madrid number two socialist parliamentary candidate, the widely respected Second Vice President and Finance Minister Pedro Solbes. The Pizarro pick is a sign that the PP intends to emphasize economics more during the election campaign. Second, picking Pizarro gives Rajoy cover not to pick Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardon as his number two, something that many commentators thought was likely. The PP in Madrid is divided between supporters of Autonomous Community of Madrid President Esperanza Aguirre and Madrid Mayor Gallardon. Had Gallardon been chosen to run as number two, this would have opened up fissures with Aguirre. In terms of the general election battle, the Pizarro pick signals that the PP is gearing up for a bare-knuckle fight. Pizarro proved to be a no holds-barred opponent and critic of the socialist government during the Endesa takeover battle. More of the same can be expected from Pizarro during the coming weeks.