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Spain’s opposition party to pick new leader in April as Casado quits

Spain's main opposition Popular Party said Tuesday it will pick a new leader in early April after Pablo Casado came under huge pressure to step down following a messy internal clash.

Spain's opposition party to pick new leader in April as Casado quits
The soon to be former leader of Spain’s right-wing PP, Pablo Casado, has apologised for how he handled the allegations of nepotism by colleague Isabel Díaz Ayuso but says he’s been treated unfairly. Photo: PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP

April after Pablo Casado came under huge pressure to step down following a messy internal clash.

The PP will hold an extraordinary congress on April 2-3 in the southern city of Seville to choose a replacement for Casado, 41, through a vote by all members, the party said in a statement.

Barring a last-minute surprise, his replacement is likely to be Alberto Núñez Feijóo, a 60-year-old moderate and party stalwart who currently heads the northwestern Galicia region.

Current Galician regional president and Popular Party (PP) politician Alberto Núñez Feijóo has not yet confirmed if he will aim for PP leadership. (Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP)

Casado threw his support behind Feijóo at a party meeting on Tuesday called to set a date for the congress, saying the Galician leader “has always given me his loyalty and friendship”.

Feijoo has ruled Galicia since 2009. It is the only region where the PP governs alone with a majority — a rare feat within Spain’s increasingly fragmented political landscape.

He has said he will announce his decision on whether or not to run for party chief on Wednesday after talks with the PP leadership in Galicia.

The new party head will have to patch up the damage caused by the internal battle that has gripped the party which has been struggling to cope with the rise of the far-right Vox before the next general election due in late 2023.

Some recent polls have put Vox in second place behind Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialists.

Casado, who became the party’s youngest president in mid-2018, lost two general elections to Sanchez’s Socialists.

And his lacklustre leadership took a major knock last week after he raised explosive corruption allegations about one of the party’s most popular politicians, Madrid’s regional leader Isabel Díaz Ayuso.

READ MORE: Why did Casado really accuse Ayuso of corruption?

He accused her brother of collecting tens of thousands of euros in commissions for brokering a contract for face masks with her administration at the height of the pandemic.

Ayuso denied any wrongdoing and in turn accused Casado and his team of spying on her and trying to discredit her.

“I wish (Casado had) investigated Pedro Sánchez in as much detail as me and my family,” she said Tuesday.

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NATO

Spain and Mali foreign ministers speak after row over NATO remarks

Mali's Foreign Minister said Saturday he had spoken with his Spanish counterpart after a row over comments the Spaniard made about the possibility of a NATO operation in the African country.

Spain and Mali foreign ministers speak after row over NATO remarks

Mali’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop wrote in a tweet that he had spoken by phone with his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Albares about the comments, which were made in a radio interview.

“He denied the remarks and expressed his attachment to friendly relations and cooperation with Mali,” wrote Diop.

Spain moved to calm the row Saturday, a day after a day the military regime in Bamako had summoned their ambassador for an explanation.

“Spain did not ask during the NATO summit or at any other time for an intervention, mission or any action by the Alliance in Mali,” said a statement from Spain’s embassy.

The row blew up over remarks by Albares in an interview Thursday with Spain’s RNE radio. Asked if a NATO mission in Mali could be ruled out, Albares said: “No, we can’t rule it out.”

“It hasn’t been on the table at the talks in Madrid because this is a summit that is laying out, so to speak, the framework for NATO action.”

“If it were necessary and if there was to be a threat to our security, of course it would be done,” he added.

Albares was speaking on the sidelines of the NATO summit as it drew to a close in Madrid. Diop had told state broadcaster ORTM on Friday that Bamako had summoned the Spanish ambassador to lodge a strong protest over the remarks.

READ ALSO: Nato apologises after hanging Spanish flag upside down at Madrid summit

“These remarks are unacceptable, unfriendly, serious,” said Diop, because “they tend to encourage an aggression against an independent and sovereign country”.

“We have asked for explanations, a clarification of this position from the Spanish government,” he added.

At the Madrid summit, Spain pushed hard to prioritise the topic of the threat to NATO’s southern flank caused by the unrest in the Sahel — the vast territory stretching across the south of Africa’s Sahara Desert, incorporating countries such as Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Jihadist attacks there are pushing increasing numbers of people to flee north towards Europe, with Spain one of the main points of entry there.

READ ALSO: Spain’s capital ramps up security to host Nato summit

At the summit, NATO acknowledged the alliance’s strategic interest in the Middle East, north Africa and the Sahel.

Mali has since 2012 been rocked by jihadist insurgencies. Violence began in the north and then spread to the centre and to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

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