On Monday Mariano Rajoy responded with a flat refusal to the opposition’s earlier demand that he resign. But he did not do this in the Congress, nor as part of a detailed explanation of the Bárcenas case. He did it in the course of a press conference with the Polish prime minister, using a statement he had prepared beforehand. The prime minister knows very well that what we heard on Monday are not the explanations being demanded of him, and that he still faces the unavoidable necessity of appearing in parliament to give them.
This happened on the same day the former treasurer of the PP confirmed his change of strategy before Judge Pablo Ruz. Having until now denied his authorship of the accounting notebooks published by EL PAÍS on January 31, Bárcenas now not only accredits them, but also says they reflect a consolidated system of bonuses and movements of undeclared funds in the PP’s head office. As for the persons who received such payments, he rules out José María Aznar and points to Rajoy and PP secretary general María Dolores de Cospedal, to whom he attributes concrete though undocumented quantities. He did submit a document on the delivery of 200,000 euros to the then-head of the PP in Toledo, supposedly in exchange for a cleaning contract, when Cospedal was president of the PP in the region of Castilla-La Mancha. She denies this accusation, and considers that Bárcenas’s assertions in general are a mass of “slander and lies.”
The justice system must proceed in its investigation. But what emerges in court falls far short of the explanations that the public deserves to hear. Unknowns are proliferating via the judicial statements of Bárcenas, leaving even more in the air the degree to which these leaders were involved with the former PP treasurer, and grave suspicions about an irregular system of income and payment within the governing party.
To argue that they are not in connivance with Bárcenas because he is in prison is not only nonsense but a dangerous argument for political leaders to use, suggesting as it does that the government can decide who goes to jail and who doesn’t.
Rajoy is clinging to the straw of political stability, giving us to understand that his personal presence is the surety of the reforms set in motion by his government. This is an answer that attempts to divert the question into the channel of debate between government and opposition; but it is not being offered in Congress, the natural place for majority-minority encounters, and the seat of sovereignty. The prime minister has to convey his public messages through the parliamentary channels that are normal in countries around us.
The problem still stands in the same terms in which it existed before Monday’s press conference, and the only provisional advantage that Rajoy can count on is the opposition’s disagreement about what plan of action to follow. The prime minister hopes to settle into a strategy of resistance, of buying weeks or months of political time by means of putting off these problems. This method is entirely useless as a response to the serious concerns of the Spanish public.