Another year, another Spanish political scandal.
There’s no one political party that has a monopoly on scandal in Spain, but when it comes to corruption and spying, right-wing party Partido Popular members (PP) are experts. Just four years ago corruption downed the last PP Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, and the lingering legal consequences have been rumbling on in the background throughout the parliament with the ‘Operation Kitchen’ investigation.
But now, just days after a poor result in the Castille and Leon regional elections that trapped PP leader Pablo Casado between minority government or coalition with far-right Vox, President of the Madrid region and rumoured national leadership challenger, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, has publicly accused Casado of being involved in a campaign to discredit her.
It is alleged that PP top brass hired private detectives to see if Ayuso had intervened to award a €1.5 million COVID-19 face mask contract to an associate of her brother.
Speaking publicly, Ayuso denied any involvement and remarked that “although political life is full of unpleasantness, I never imagined that the leadership of my party would act in such a cruel and unfair way against me.”
Many view the move as a preemptive strike by Casado to extinguish a potential leadership challenge as his popularity further falls and Ayuso’s climbs following her landslide victory in Madrid last year. Tensions have bubbled since then, and rumours of a leadership challenge grew.
Details of the face mask contract were unearthed last year when it emerged the contract bypassed the usual tender process, and PP officials say an internal investigation was launched after Ayuso failed to cooperate with the probe, but deny private detectives were used.
In response to Ayuso’s public attacks on Casado, party General Secretary Teodoro García Egea defended the leadership against what he termed “a campaign of attacks, slander and insults” and noted a disciplinary investigation, and perhaps even legal action, would be opened against her.
With PP’s last spying scandal still looming over the party, the party has been dragged into another. The party is no stranger to illegality and infighting, but this time it couldn’t even wait to be in government.
What was a rumoured rift and potential leadership challenge now seems a certainty somewhere down the line, and expect the face mask contract scandal to get ugly. Just as they did by calling a snap election in Castille and León, it seems PP’s decision to preempt things may backfire on them.