It was the final piece of the puzzle, and one that many within the ruling Popular Party (PP) view as the final rupture with its rightist faction. On Tuesday, former Prime Minister José María Aznar, the PP’s honorary president, announced that he would not attend the party’s national conference, to be held this weekend in Valladolid.
Aznar, a powerful figure within the PP, pointed to his international agenda, which currently has him in Israel ahead of engagements in London, the Philippines and the US. However, the absence of Aznar signifies a deepening of the internal crisis which has opened within the conservative party in the past few days: Esperanza Aguirre has lamented the decision of European PP spokesman Jaime Mayor Oreja not to run for re-election to the Euro Parliament; the former leader of the Basque PP, María San Gil, has accused the party hierarchy of “allowing the Basque Country’s nightmare in relation to ETA” to drag on; and Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a vice president of the European Parliament and former leader of the Catalonia PP, has also left the party in protest at Mariano Rajoy’s policies.
PP number two María Dolores de Cospedal on Tuesday sought to douse the embers of discontent in an interview with Catholic radio network Cope. “Mayor Oreja’s decision could be seen as a setback, but it is really just another way of moving forward,” she said.
Most in the party have paid little heed to the emergence of Vox, the party formed by former ETA kidnap victim José Antonio Ortega Lara and ex-PP deputy Santiago Abascal Conde. But it is seen as a symbolic victory by many in the party who are at odds with the government’s policies, particularly regarding ETA. However, nobody expects the formation to do the PP any serious damage in the May 25 European elections.