Just hours later, at the Podemos congress in the Spanish capital, Pablo Iglesias made sure of his position as leader of the left-wing, anti-austerity party with 89% of the vote.
Rajoy ran unopposed in the PP leadership elections and Iglesias easily shrugged off a leadership challenge from his deputy Iñigo Errejón.
Tensions between Iglesias and Errejón, who advocates a more pragmatic and less confrontational approach to winning political power, have dominated the run-up to this weekend’s party congress, with Iglesias vowing to step down if he failed to win a majority of the vote.
“There’s no doubt we’ve made a lot of mistakes,2 he said. “It’s impossible not to when you have to make decisions. But I want to promise you all something: we’ll never be on the wrong side. Together with our people, we must carry on the social project of building a sovereign country that is fairer, more equal, more representative, more democratic and more modern, and in which equality between men and women is a reality.”
Rajoy, who has been prime minister since 2011, thanked party members for their support, saying “It’s an honour because I have spent all my life in this party”. The 61 year old has led a minority government since October last year, when he won support from other parties to end ten months of deadlock following two indecisive elections.
He used yesterday’s congress to address one of his party’s biggest challenges, fighting efforts by the Catalan regional government to secede from the rest of the Spain, asserting, “We are not going to accept a referendum that seeks to tear Spain apart”.