15th August 2022
Pablo Casado
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Pablo Casado finally stepping down as PP leader

Updated on Thursday 24 February at 12.15h

Spain’s right-wing People’s Party (PP) will pick a new leader in an extraordinary party convention to be held on 2 and 3 April. It was decided on Thursday in the early hours of the morning during a meeting between key officials in Madrid. 

The meeting was chaired by the current party leader, Pablo Casado, who was asked to immediately step down. However, the PP’s senior members finally agreed to keep him in his position until the convention, while Casado committed in writing not to run for re-election as party leader. 

Casado, 41, had appeared in the Spanish Congress on Wednesday morning and received a standing ovation from some of the same party members who had withdrawn their support from his leadership this week. 

He made a short, solemn speech in which he called on the PSOEPodemos coalition government to ‘serve the greater good’. After Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez wished him ‘the best in his personal life’, Casado quickly left the chamber.

Casado, who became the party’s youngest president in July 2018, lost two national elections to Sánchez’s PSOE socialists. But his hold on the party has been shattered by his rivalry with Madrid regional president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, who scored a huge victory in a local election for the Madrid region last year and has since been seeking a larger role.

Things came to a head last week after El Mundo and El Confidencial newspapers published a report that the party leadership had spied on Ayuso over her brother allegedly having earned €286,000 for brokering a deal between the Madrid region and a company for a €1.5m contract to supply face masks in Spring 2020, during the worst days of the pandemic. ALSO READ: People’s Party (PP) rift grows into all-out battle between Ayuso & Casado.

Ayuso accused Casado and Teodoro García Egea, the party’s secretary-general, of ‘spying’ on her regarding her brother’s role, also saying they had orchestrated detectives to do so.

Speaking publicly on television last Thursday, Ayuso said 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’ – specifically naming Casado and his close associates as being behind the alleged smear campaign.

In response to Ayuso’s public attacks on Casado, García Egea also spoke last Thursday, defending the leadership against what he termed ‘a campaign of attacks, slander and insults’, and said that a disciplinary investigation, and possibly even legal action, would be opened against her. Casado himself also fired back, saying in a radio interview that the contract with her brother was ‘almost illegal’ and worthy of a party probe.

Since then, Ayuso has continuously accused her own party’s leadership of violating her presumption of innocence while confirming that her brother earned €55,850 from the sale but that it was done legally and not through nepotism. A rally was held outside the PP’s HQ in Madrid last Sunday, with around 3,000 of Ayuso’s supporters calling for Casado’s resignation. The PP’s disciplinary investigation against her has been shelved, and on Tuesday García Egea finally bowed to pressure to resign from his own post as secretary general.

Madrid’s PP mayor, José Luis Almeida, also stepped down from his joint role as the party’s spokesman on Tuesday, after having remained silent for days – with the alleged espionage against Ayuso believed to stem from a senior official in Madrid’s local council.

Meanwhile, Spain’s anti-corruption prosecutor’s office has opened an inquiry into the €1.5m contract between the Madrid region and Priviet Sportive for the sale of 250,000 FF2 and FF3 face masks in which Tomás Díaz Ayuso received at least €55,850 to import the protective equipment from China to Madrid.

After a marathon meeting of the party leadership on Monday, Casado did not step down but first announced that next Tuesday a top body within the party would convene in order to decide whether there should be a congress to pick a new leader. It was later announced that there would definitely be a congress in the coming weeks. He has since agreed that a new leader should be elected, and he will not stand for re-election himself.

One of the best-regarded regional PP leaders, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, who has been the president of Galicia since 2009 after achieving four consecutive absolute majorities, had also told Casado to make ‘a final decision’ to sort the crisis out.

Núñez Feijóo rejected to bid for the party leadership in 2018 when Casado was appointed after Mariano Rajoy had stepped down, having been ousted from his post in a motion of no confidence led by the PSOE socialists.

Pablo Casado
Pablo Casado making a brief statement in the Spanish Congress on 23 February 2022. (Congreso.es)

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