The ruling Popular Party (PP) kicked off its national conference on Friday in Valladolid with a call for unity after evident fissures within the group witnessed by the absence of former Prime Minister José María Aznar and the announcement by Jaime Mayor Oreja that he would not be standing in the forthcoming elections to the European Parliament, where he led the PP.
Certain right-wing elements within the party have voiced discontent about what they perceive to be a softening of the hardline stance of the PP toward terrorism. Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría on Thursday felt the need to attend a seminar in Bilbao in support of the leader of the Basque branch of the party, and to reaffirm the government’s commitment to seeing ETA disappear.
In a speech, the party’s secretary general and premier of the region of Castilla-La Mancha , María Dolores de Cospedal, resorted time and again to the use of the words “all of us,” “together,” and “unity.”
“We are all the Popular Party. […] The PP is all of us and we exist for the 47 million Spaniards because all of you, all of us, are the PP,” she said.
We exist for the 47 million Spaniards because all of you, all of us, are the PP"
Expressing thanks to Mayor Oreja and to Aznar, De Cospedal went onto to say: “We all fit within the PP; all of us who believe that freedom is essential in an advanced society.”
Diverging from De Cospedal’s script, Juan Vicente Herrera, the premier of the region of Castilla y Léon, lamented “shameful cases that concern us as politicians and as a party,” in apparent reference to former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas. On January 31 of last year, EL PAÍS revealed the existence of secret ledgers kept by Bárcenas in which he detailed illegal donations to the party and cash bonus payments to PP leaders including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and De Cospedal, both of whom have denied receiving any such payments. Bárcenas is currently in preventive custody and could face charges of money-laundering and tax fraud.
While also appealing for unity, Herrera made reference to the tensions within the party. “It is a shame that the turbulence of this week should have overshadowed an important statement made by a loved and respected colleague,” he said in reference to Mayor Oreja. “”We who have been building the center-right since 1982 cannot allow ourselves today to be at odds.”