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 Thursday, 9 January, 2003, 16:58 GMT
Spain's first lady enters politics
Ana Botella addresses a party meeting in Madrid
Botella: On the ruling party list for May poll
The Spanish Prime Minister's wife, Ana Botella, has formally announced she is to run for political office.

In a widely expected move, Mrs Botella said she would stand for election as a city councillor in Madrid for the ruling centre-right Popular Party.

She has more than enough ability, courage and determination for politics

Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar
The announcement comes ahead of local polls due in May this year, and the end of Jose Maria Aznar's term of office in 2004.

The opposition Socialist party said Mrs Botella's presence would tip the Popular party further to the right.

'Charismatic'

"I want to dedicate my time, my hours and my dreams to this project and political task," Ana Botella said to applause at a Popular Party meeting in Madrid.

"I'm entering politics to dedicate myself to citizens and especially to those who need better opportunities to overcome inequalities."

Jose Maria Aznar
Aznar: Second term in office ends next year

Mrs Botella, who is 49, has been a PP activist for more than 20 years, playing a pivotal role in the election campaigns of her husband, who came to power in 1996.

Paying tribute to his wife in Thursday's El Pais, Mr Aznar remarked: "She has more than enough ability, courage and determination for politics, especially in today's times."

However Mrs Botella - a former civil servant with a law degree - is considered to be more outgoing and charismatic than her husband.

Dynasty?

"She's one of our assets. She's a born politician," one former PP minister was quoted as saying.

Mrs Botella has also been involved in social issues related to women and frequently travels around Spain on speaking tours, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Mr Aznar is not planning to run for re-election at the end of his second four-year term in 2004.

Mrs Botella's decision to bid for political office in Madrid has prompted Spanish media speculation that she may be being groomed as a possible future prime minister.

"It could be that Jose Maria Aznar is keeping an ace up his sleeve", according to the conservative Madrid daily Razon.

See also:

13 Mar 00 | Europe
13 Mar 00 | Europe
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