Ana Botella, the wife of former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, was sworn-in Tuesday as Madrid’s first woman mayor. She succeeds Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, mayor of the capital since 2003, who resigned to serve as Justice Minister in the new Conservative government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Botella, 58, a lawyer by training and conservative Catholic became a member of the city council in 2003, during her husband’s 1996-2004 tenure as prime minister, but has been active in the conservative Popular Party since 1978.
She occupied the second spot on the ruling Popular Party ticket in the May 22 municipal elections that gave Ruiz-Gallardon a third consecutive term as capital mayor.
In her first speech as mayor, Botella pledged to govern the city with austerity tempered by concern for the poor, the elderly, the unemployed and people living on the margins of society.
Botella, whose swearing-in ceremony was attended by six members of Rajoy’s Cabinet, said she will soon implement a “specific plan to contain spending” by the municipal government.
She faces the challenge of dealing with a municipal debt of 6.35 billion Euros, the legacy of big projects undertaken by Ruiz-Gallardon, who led an unsuccessful bid to bring the 2012 Olympics to Madrid.
The new mayor will also have to come up with a way to bring the capital’s air-quality up to European Union standards.
“We have already managed to substantially limit our budget and reduce the debt,” which will reach 6.377 billion Euros by the end of 2011 she told the city council after her televised swearing-in.
“Through this path of budgetary discipline we will achieve a balance between revenues and spending in the coming year,” she added. “We will cut the debt burden by a further 3.112 billion Euros by 2016”.
Botella added that a bid by Madrid to host the 2020 Olympic Games was still viable since most of the necessary investment had already been made.
“Among our aims, Madrid’s effort to be an Olympic city has an important place — a commitment that we are renewing with our eyes on the 2020 Games,” she said. “To accomplish it, no new spending is needed until the International Olympic Committee’s decision, because we have already built 80 per cent of the necessary infrastructure”.