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Rajoy re-elected as leader of Spain's ruling party

Spain's governing Popular Party on Saturday re-elected Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as its leader, at a congress in the southern city of Seville where he vowed he would pursue his austerity policies.

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy celebrates after being reelected President of the conservative party Partido Popular (PP) during the PP XVII National Congress in Sevilla. Rajoy vowed he would pursue his austerity policies.

More than 97 percent of the 3,000 party delegates voted for Rajoy who was elected uncontested, the Popular Party (PP) said.

Rajoy, who is 56, has headed the PP since 2004 and the Spanish government since December after the conservatives trounced the socialists under Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in general elections in November.

"What Spain expects from us is that we act with determination and quickly," Rajoy told the party congress.

"We are working in the interest of all, we cannot allow negligence or tolerate wastefulness," he added. Rajoy also called on his party to be a "model of political and moral conduct".

Spain's economy is sliding towards recession, shrinking by 0.3 percent in the final quarter of last year, according to official figures, and predicted by the Bank of Spain to contract by another 1.5 percent in 2012.

Street protests against the austerity measures are growing.

Protesters have warned that spending cuts -- part of nationwide efforts under the conservatives to strengthen the country's public finances -- were undermining social care and emergency services.

Spain's unemployment rate hit a 17-year high 22.85 percent at the end of 2011 -- the highest in the industrialised world -- as the number of job seekers shot above the five-million barrier and Rajoy has warned that it will rise even further this year.

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