The Strategist

Mariano Rajoy may lose the Prime Minister seat due to corruption scandal

05/31/2018 - 12:50

The Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy, is under threat of resignation. The reason is a corruption scandal involving high-ranking members of the People's Party headed by him (NP). Today, the parliament will discuss the expediency of passing a vote of no confidence in the government, and on Friday will vote on this issue. Pedro Sanchez, the leader of Spain's main opposition force, has already announced his claims to the prime minister's chair, but he still has to gather several votes. Now, the decision lies upon nationalists of the Basque Country and Catalonia, who have a lot of claims to the incumbent Prime Minister.

European People's Party
European People's Party
"I intend to fulfill the mandate of the Spaniards and the mandate of this parliament, especially since the lower house adopted a budget last week," Mariano Rajoy said yesterday in front of the Spanish MPs. The Prime Minister made it clear that his resignation, for which the opposition parties are striving, will have an extremely negative impact on Spain's stability.

The opposition attacked after last week the Spanish National Court adopted a decision on the so-called Gürtel case, the investigation of corruption cases, money laundering and tax evasion in the ranks of the NP. The court found guilty 29 of the 37 persons involved in the case; they were summarily sentenced to 351 years in prison. Among the convicts was the former treasurer of the - he was sentenced to 33 years in prison and has to pay a fine of € 44 million. At the same time, the NP itself was ordered to pay € 245,500 fine for illegally receiving money during the election campaign in two municipalities of the province of Madrid in 2003.

It was a rumor for about ten years, and the opposition parties used it more than once as an argument against the ruling conservatives. The media published materials proving that Mariano Rajoy was aware of the machinations within the party. The publications also contained information about illegal contributions of entrepreneurs to the party treasury. It was claimed that Mariano Rajoy and the Party Secretary General María Dolores de Cospedal received the money personally. Last year, Mr. Rajoy became the first prime minister in the history of Spain, who testified in court as a witness in the case of corruption in the ruling party. The court verdict, passed recently, became a reason for the socialists to raise the question of a vote of no confidence in the acting government.

The opposition Spanish Socialist Workers' Party needs votes of 176 out of 350 deputies for the success of this initiative, while it has only 84 seats in the Congress of Deputies (lower house of parliament). The leftist populist party Podemos ("We Can"), the Compromis ("Compromise") party from Valencia and the nationalist party Nueva Canarias ("New Canaries") agreed to support the socialists, and so 156 votes were obtained in total.

The decisive vote could be given by the center-right Ciudadanos party, which has 32 seats. Initially, experts assumed that the party would agree to vote for resignation of the government, because Ciudadanos earned support of voters and took the fourth place in the first parliamentary elections in 2015, thanks to two key promises: to leave Catalonia in Spain and fight corruption. In the pre-election program, Ciudadanos promised to bring to the court cases of all those suspected of corruption, to prohibit companies from making political donations of more than € 50,000, to oblige parties to publish all the accounts on official websites. Many proposals contained hints of corruption in the NP.

However, a conflict arose between the leader of Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera and the socialist Pedro Sanchez. According to the Constitution of Spain, after passing to the acting prime minister a vote of no confidence, MPs should offer a new candidate for the post of head of government. Mr. Sanchez said that he should take the chair of the Prime Minister, but Albert Rivera disagreed. The leader of Ciudadanos began to insist that either a candidate should be independent, or new parliamentary elections should be held after the resignation, and only then will it be possible to choose the Prime Minister. Such a desire can be explained by the fact that on the wave of the Catalan crisis, Ciudadanos party, which is against the region’s independence, became the most popular in the country. Now it is only the fourth strongest force, but in the case of elections in the near future, the fierce opponents of Catalonia's independence would have come first with a result of 29.1% of the vote.

Mariano Rajoy is trying to dissuade the doubting members of the Basque Nationalist Party (BNP, five seats in parliament) from supporting the socialists, El Pais newspaper reported citing sources in the NP. However, the same sources explained to the newspaper that the government has nothing to offer to the Basque Country, other than "economic stability and budget increase." However, Mr. Rajoy is not ready to talk about expanding autonomy of the region. Because of this, it is not yet clear whether the Basques will consider the promise of economic stability as sufficient argument to vote against resignation of the Prime Minister.


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