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National Day gaffe plunges Spain's Rajoy in a soup

On the eve of Spain's National Day, conservative politician Mariano Rajoy put his foot in his mouth when he called the celebrations "a drag". Coming from an avowed patriot, it was a juicy gaffe, one the ruling party was quick to seize on.

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Forgetting his microphone was still on, Spanish conservative leader, Mariano Rajoy, confided to a colleague that he finds the Oct. 12th military parade – which marks National Day - a "complete drag".

 

It could be the number one political gaffe of the year in Spain. Headlines were humming on the Internet and commentators were having a field day after Saturday's bloomer by the leader of the conservative Popular Party (PP).

 

Rajoy was presiding over the closing stages of the PP's inter-parliamentary congress Saturday morning. Chatting to his friend, Javier Arenas, president of the PP in Andalusia region, about his plans for the weekend. "Tomorrow I've got the military parade, what a complete drag,” he said. “Too exciting for words."

 

He was referring to the armed forces parade, which takes place on Madrid's Castellana Boulevard to commemorate the 'Día de la Hispanidad' (National Day).

 

It would have remained a little aside to a trusted friend if Rajoy had remembered to switch off the mike, which was relaying his comments live to all the media present.

 

‘Total respect, total affection and support for the armed forces’

 

This is a particularly clumsy gaffe coming from the opposition leader because it was exactly a year ago, just when the campaign for legislative elections was getting under way, that he exhorted his compatriots to show their support for National Day by unfurling the Spanish flag from their balconies.

 

In a communiqué issued on Saturday afternoon, the PP leader explained he had been having a "private conversation", and reiterated his "total respect, total affection and support for the armed forces and the celebration of National Day."

 

But the governing Socialist party is not quite ready to overlook the issue. Defence spokesperson, Jesus Cuadrado, says the telling little comment, "shows what he (Rajoy) really thinks", and comments on the PP leader's "scant respect" for the armed forces.

 

Rajoy, who has twice lost to Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in the race to be prime minister, really didn't need this fresh setback. Spain's conservatives have been divided since the PP's second defeat in the legislative elections last March.

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