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tHE EURO ZONE

In with the new

Mariano Rajoy's days as prime minister of Spain are, or should be, numbered. That is the conclusion to be drawn from the latest Metroscopia poll for the Spanish daily El País, which revealed that 85% of Spaniards want the Galician old-timer to give someone else a shot at leading the conservative Popular Party (PP). More worryingly still for Rajoy (if he cares about such polls, which might be a bit of a stretch), is that 62% of people who have previously voted for him think that he should go.

Clearly, Rajoy - who has been at the helm of his vilified party for fourteen years and has stood for prime minister five times - is being punished for his handling of the Catalonia crisis, as well as for corruption within the PP. But the Metroscopia poll also suggests that Spaniards don't care about the fact that the Spanish economy has been growing steadily under Rajoy's leadership; indeed, it posted GDP expansion of 3.1% in 2017, the third consecutive year of growth over 3%.

But most Spaniards don't think the current prime minister can take the credit for that. Either that, or the rosy macroeconomic statistics have been drowned out by events in Catalonia and the stream of corruption scandals generated by PP politicians. Or, as is probably the case, a combination of all those factors.

Rajoy's contention has always been that the PP, under his leadership, is the only worthy guardian of the Spanish economy, which was in dire straits when he won his first term as prime minister in 2011. Since then, unemployment has dropped to 17% from a critical high of 26% in 2013 and Spain's GDP has been expanding at one of the fastest rates in the eurozone. But Spaniards are telling Rajoy that this is irrelevant - that his failure to address endemic corruption within the PP and his handling of the latest Catalonia crisis have sealed his fate.

All of which is playing into the hands of pro-business, market-friendly Ciudadanos (“Citizens”). Albert Rivera's centre-right newcomer is now the strongest force in Spanish politics and would gain 28.3% of the national vote if an election were held today. The message from the Spanish electorate is clear: forget about the supposed economic recovery - fresh faces and a harder line on corruption are long overdue in Spanish politics. Among Ciudadanos supporters, 79% think that the party has a well-defined plan for Spain's future.

Spanish economy minister Luis de Guindos, certainly, won't give much thought to the damning Metroscopia poll. He's far too caught up in pursuing a position as vicepresident of the European Central Bank. Perhaps it's time to give someone else a shot at his job, too. Out with the old, in with the new.