MADRID Spain's ruling People's Party (PP) said on Wednesday it had picked popular Agriculture Minister Miguel Arias Canete to head its list of candidates for the European Parliamentary elections in May.
Canete appointment could improve the party's chances in the upcoming election. Out of 13 ministers, he scored the second-highest approval rate among members of the public and also among PP voters in a Metroscopia poll published on Sunday.
However, his candidacy means he will have to give up his role in government, triggering the first cabinet change since the center-right PP came into power with an absolute majority in a 2011 general election.
Its popularity has since fallen in the wake of austerity measures, corruption scandals and a move to restrict abortion. It is now tied or even marginally lagging the opposition Socialists in some polls, even as the country's economy emerges from a deep recession.
The PP would win 31.8 percent of the vote if elections in Spain were held now, against 32.3 percent for the Socialists, the Metroscopia poll published by El Pais newspaper on Sunday showed.
The PP party had come under fire from some opposition parties for delaying the announcement of who would head the list for European Parliamentary elections to be held on May 25.
The Socialist Party unveiled its own top candidate in February.
But Canete, a PP veteran who has previously already been elected to the European Parliament and headed committees on fisheries and regional policy there, had long been expected to head the PP's candidate list.
PP Secretary General Maria Dolores de Cospedal said on Wednesday it was not clear when his replacement would be chosen.
(Reporting by Raquel Castillo, Writing by Sarah White; Editing by Toby Chopra)