Podemos to press ahead with no-confidence vote against Mariano Rajoy
Spain’s anti-austerity Podemos party has vowed to press ahead with a vote of no-confidence against the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, warning that the latest corruption allegations involving his governing People’s party (PP) have crossed “red lines” and risk jeopardising the rule of law.
Podemos’s leader, Pablo Iglesias, said his party had an “ethical obligation” to hold Rajoy to account after Ignacio González, a former PP president of the Madrid region, was arrested as part of an investigation into alleged embezzlement at a state-owed water company.
Evidence has also emerged to suggest that the chief anti-corruption prosecutor intervened in the case in an alleged attempt to block a line of inquiry.
“What’s happened over the past two weeks is another step over the red lines by the People’s party,” said Iglesias.
“The anti-corruption prosecutor is trying to do the opposite of fighting corruption; he’s trying to stop prosecutors who are fighting corruption from doing their job.
“It means that the People’s party is behaving like a parasite when it comes to institutions; it’s not just looting them to get richer, it’s also risking citizens’ safety by trying to ensure that the police, the guardia civil, judges and prosecutors don’t go after people who are corrupt.”
Iglesias said the party would go ahead with the rarely used no-confidence motion, which has only been used twice since Spain’s 1970s return to democracy, despite the fact that it is unlikely to succeed. The Spanish Socialist Workers’ party (PSOE) dismissed the move as irresponsible political “fireworks” while the centre-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) party called it a “circus stunt”.
The Podemos leader denied suggestions that he was using the vote to divide the PSOE, which has been leaderless since Pedro Sánchez stepped down last year after refusing to back Rajoy’s return to office following 10 months of political stalemate.
“We’re not the ones responsible for what’s happened in the past two weeks,” said Iglesias, adding: “We didn’t create that reality but it’s the reality that people are finding out about through the media and thanks to the brave guardia civil and police officers and prosecutors. That is the reality of Spain, and it’s much more important than what happens in any political party.”
Sánchez, who is hoping to win back his old job, has called for Rajoy to resign but has accused Podemos of letting the PP back into power by failing to support his attempts to form a socialist-led government last year.
The PP has been mired in a succession of damaging, high-profile corruption scandals in recent years and Rajoy has been called to testify as a witness in a case involving senior PP members who are alleged to have taken kickbacks in return for contracts.
Such scandals, however are not confined to Madrid. The PP president of the south-eastern region of Murcia was forced to resign last month over alleged corruption, while the son of former Catalan regional president Jordi Pujol was sent to prison last week on suspicion of hiding €30m (£25m) during an investigation into alleged money laundering.
Fernando Jímenez, a professor of political science and administration at the University of Murcia, said Spain suffered from a particular kind of corruption.
“Public services here work pretty efficiently and without any corruption,” he said. “What we have is grand corruption at high levels and it’s linked to high-level contacts between senior party members and powerful businesspeople.”
Jímenez said that while people had turned a blind eye to corruption during Spain’s building boom – “it wasn’t tolerance of corruption so much as indifference” – the economic crisis in 2008 had changed attitudes and helped to create new parties such as Podemos and Ciudadanos.
Victor Lapuente, associate professor of political science at the University of Gothenberg, said that Spain’s old two-party system had made it difficult for voters to punish corruption – especially when both the PP and the PSOE were tainted.
He said the main problem remained the politicisation of local, regional and central administrations.
“You’re not exactly creating an boys’ club, but you are definitely creating a group of people at the top of local, regional or central administrations who all share a similar electoral interest,” he added.
Manuel Villoria, professor of political science at Madrid’s King Juan Carlos University, said although the PP was increasingly paying the price for the post-crisis shift in attitudes to corruption in Spain, its leader was safe for now.
“For a long time now, Rajoy has been touched and wounded by a lot of corruption allegations but he’s immensely lucky because the Socialist party is in the state it’s in and … Podemos could be seen as a party that’s too radical to form a government in Spain,” he said.
“That’s why he’s still alive. Any other advanced democracy wouldn’t be able to carry on like this. Thanks to these games and the state of the other parties, he’s still alive.”