Following an emergency meeting on Sunday, the opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) called for “the immediate resignation” of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and announced a “break in all relations” with the ruling Popular Party.
At a press conference, opposition leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba said that Spain was going through an “unbearable political situation” after further evidence emerged on Sunday suggesting that Rajoy remained in close contact with the PP’s former treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, despite a number of allegations of internal corruption already having emerged.
The PSOE said on Sunday that it will not call for early elections, as the United Left coalition (IU) did earlier in the day, but instead insist that another PP official take over as prime minister. “If this doesn’t happen, then we will opt for another solution,” Rubalcaba said.
The dramatic twist in the ongoing Bárcenas scandal was prompted by the publication by Spanish daily El Mundo of a series of text messages between Rajoy and Bárcenas, in which the prime minister appears to be trying to reassure the ex-treasurer two months after the corruption scandal broke.
Mr Rajoy is incapable of continuing another minute as head of the government of Spain"
Bárcenas, who has been charged with tax fraud, bribery and other crimes, is currently in the Soto del Real prison, where he is in protected custody, after a judge last month determined he was a flight risk and may have been trying to fabricate evidence in his case.
While the prime minister has avoided mentioning Bárcenas’ name in public, Rajoy’s messages place him in a very delicate position, suggesting he had a close relationship with the PP’s one-time money man.
“Luis, nothing is easy but we’ll do what we can. Keep your chin up,” reads one message purportedly sent by Rajoy to Bárcenas in 2012.
In an interview published in El Mundo last Sunday, Bárcenas admitted to having run two separate accounting systems for the PP, paying out large sums of cash to party officials on top of their regular salaries. The funds were apparently being paid to the PP by contractors as part of the illegal financing scheme.
Ledgers allegedly kept by Bárcenas, which were first published by EL PAÍS earlier this year, show payments made to a number of senior PP members, including Mariano Rajoy. The PP has vehemently denied these allegations.
Rubalcaba said that these text messages show “not only understanding but prove a co-existence” between the prime minister and Bárcenas as the alleged corruption scandal was brewing.
“Mr Rajoy is incapable of continuing another minute as head of the government of Spain. His continued presence only contributes to the incalculable harm that has been done to this country. The seriousness of the situation puts us at a point of no return. So that is why the Socialist Party demands the immediate resignation of Mr Rajoy as prime minister,” he said.
The Socialist leader said that beginning on Monday he will contact the other opposition groups to form a common front to demand that Rajoy step down. But he didn’t discuss what “initiatives” he will propose to the other parties. Nevertheless, he didn’t rule out a motion of censure in parliament, which, if passed, could force the Rajoy administration to fold.
The Socialist leader will contact other groups to demand that Rajoy step down
The PP holds 186 seats, compared to the Socialists’ 110 seats in Congress.
Reactions to the text messages started early on Sunday, with the IU immediately demanding early elections. José Luis Centella, the IU spokesman in Congress, said Rajoy should dissolve parliament on Monday and step down.
“This is no way to govern. We have a prime minister who is more concerned about what Bárcenas has to say,” Centella told Europa Press.