One day after former prime minister José María Aznar publicly complained about being left out of the Popular Party’s European election campaign plans, he has been offered the chance to take part in “two major rallies” alongside the party’s candidate, Miguel Arias Cañete.
But it seems to be a case of too little, too late. FAES, the conservative think tank that Aznar presides, confirmed on Tuesday that the former Spanish leader can no longer modify his busy international agenda, and will be declining the invitation.
This latest exchange illustrates the existing rift between Aznar and the current leadership of the PP, of which he is still honorary president.
“I would have liked to […] have taken part in a rally with Cañete, because he is a good friend and a great person,” Aznar said on Monday, ahead of a conference held by his wife, Madrid Mayor Ana Botella. “But now it’s time to move on to something else.”
The party “did not snub” Aznar, a PP spokesman says
Immediately after he said that, Esperanza Aguirre, head of the Madrid branch of the PP, offered to organize a political event for him.
PP officials are playing down the incident and insisting that many campaign events are still open. Rafael Hernando, deputy spokesman for the Popular Group, says the party “did not snub” Aznar, who was prime minister between 1996 and 2004.
“He should know whether he has other scheduling problems or not. I have nothing more to say about it; each one of us sets his own agenda and priorities,” said Hernando, speaking in the halls of Congress.
PP European candidate Cañete, who held the agriculture portfolio until his recent designation, holds that “my campaign was not closed because I had not given up my ministerial position. Now that I have stepped down, we have been in touch with former PM Aznar to discuss the possibility of organizing rallies together.”
This is not the first time that the tension between Aznar and current party leaders has been played out in public. In November, no PP official came to the presentation of Aznar’s memoirs, El compromiso del poder. “The absentees know why they were absent. Note is duly taken,” the former PM said ominously at the event.