Profile: Spanish election rivals Rajoy and Rubalcaba

The leading contenders for prime minister in the Spanish general election to be held on 20 November are two veteran politicians.

Mariano Rajoy Brey, 56, leads the centre-right opposition Popular Party while former Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, 60, heads the governing Spanish Socialist Workers' Party.

Mariano Rajoy Brey

Image caption Mr Rajoy is in favour of austerity measures

Mr Rajoy is running for prime minister for the third time after his party was defeated by the Socialists in 2004 and 2008. Critics describe him as dull, but it has been argued that in the current economic climate his image as a straightforward and reliable man may appeal to voters.

He hails from a prominent political family in Galicia in north-western Spain. He held several ministerial posts between 1996 and 2003 and was first deputy prime minister from 2000 to 2003. During that time he won praise for his defence of the government's handling of the massive Prestige oil spill and Spain's role in the invasion of Iraq. He became president of the Popular Party in October 2004.

In a televised debate with Mr Rubalcaba on 8 November, he denounced the Socialists' economic and employment record and called for change. He said that never before had Spain suffered such a "grave loss of confidence" at home and abroad as under the outgoing government.

He is expected to implement austerity measures if he becomes prime minister, but has steered clear of announcing detailed plans.

He has described Spain as a "basic pillar of the euro", saying that a win for the Popular Party will "send a message to the world that things will be done well from now on".

Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba

Image caption Mr Rubalcaba is a former interior minister

Mr Rubalcaba's popularity rose after a series of successes in the fight against the armed Basque separatist group Eta during his term as interior minister. He is seen as a good orator and wily political operator.

Born in Cantabria in northern Spain, he holds a doctorate in chemistry. Since 1988 he has served in various ministerial posts in Socialist-led governments. Two years after the Socialists regained power in 2004 he was appointed interior minister, and in October 2010 he became first deputy prime minister and government spokesman. He resigned from these posts in July when he was named Socialist candidate for prime minister.

As interior minister, Mr Rubalcaba was regarded as a safe pair of hands for talks with Eta after it declared a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006 but the talks collapsed soon after when an Eta bomb killed two Ecuadorian immigrants. Mr Rubalcaba has been given credit for a string of arrests of Eta leaders which contributed to the group's ceasefire this year.

In his first formal speech as Socialist candidate, he called on banks to donate part of their profits to a job creation fund and proposed a new European ratings agency to rival those in the US. He also urged a crackdown on corruption and electoral reform.

In his televised debate with Mr Rajoy, he accused his opponent of having "secret plans" for massive cuts and privatisation. The centre-right newspaper El Mundo said he seemed to take his impending defeat for granted "by implicitly taking on the role of leader of the opposition and grilling Mr Rajoy as the possible prime minister".

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