Spain's Socialist Party elected former interior minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba its new leader on Saturday, giving him a tight victory at a congress in the southern city of Seville.
The 60-year-old veteran politician was seen to represent experience and security, while his female challenger Carme Chacon, 19 years his junior, had promised a new era.
Spain's Socialist Party on Friday bid farewell to Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, 51, who led the party for over a decade and governed Spain for nearly eight years...
Zapatero became PSOE secretary-general in 2000, and won a surprise election victory in 2004, when Islamist terrorist bombings helped the Socialists to topple the conservative government.
Immediately after taking power, Zapatero announced the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq, a move which led to a temporary deterioration of Spain's relations with the United States.
The Zapatero era was marked by bold social reforms such as homosexual marriage, a strong promotion of women's rights, easier access to abortion and divorce. The reforms turned Catholic Spain into one of the most liberal countries in Europe, putting the government on a collision course with the Vatican.
During his second term, Zapatero came under scathing criticism for his handling of the global crisis, which hit Spain particularly hard.
The crisis sparked a meltdown of Spain's overheated property sector, which had earlier contributed nearly 10 per cent of the country's gross domestic product. Rajoy blames Zapatero for the state of the economy, which is about to slip into a new recession while unemployment has soared to a record of nearly 23 per cent.
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