Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has called 600 officials from the governing Popular Party (PP) to an extraordinary meeting of the National Executive Committee, a top internal body, where he will address demands for a party overhaul ahead of elections.
The last time such a meeting was held was two years ago, to contain the fallout from the Bárcenas case, involving a former PP treasurer who is alleged to have run a slush fund for the party.
Delegates who show up in Madrid on Tuesday will have to come up with quick ideas to reform a party that is heading straight for a debacle at the polls eight weeks from now, according to opinion polls.
On May 24, the PP’s grip over much of Spain – it currently holds power in 3,500 mayor’s offices and 11 regional governments – could be seriously compromised.
Following the PP’s poor showing in early regional elections in Andalusia last month, conservative candidates and officials are afraid that voters might express similar sentiment in a vote that is considered a sign of the way the general election will go in the fall.
The PP enjoyed a landslide victory in November 2011 at a time when Spain was in the grip of the economic crisis, and the ruling Socialist Party was being blamed for budget cuts and layoffs.
But despite an incipient recovery, Rajoy will have a harder time convincing Spaniards to vote for him this time around because of widespread corruption accusations and because of the emergence of new parties such as Podemos and Ciudadanos, whose anti-establishment and anti-corruption messages have struck a chord with many disgruntled voters.
As a result, Rajoy is planning changes to improve party morale and win back votes. The National Executive Committee is the only party body with the power to effect changes to management, although sources consulted for this story did not think that Rajoy would go as far as to replace party leaders so close the the elections.
Many PP officials have expressed a desire to have a person with no official duties take over the party leadership to assist, or even replace, the current secretary general María Dolores de Cospedal. But sources said Rajoy will not be making any such changes next week.
“Removing Cospedal would take away her authority as a candidate to re-election to the premiership of Castilla-La Mancha, one of the governments that the PP hopes to retain,” said one high-ranking party official.
Other sources noted that it is not in Rajoy’s style to bow to pressure and that he is more likely to send out a message of optimism and announce some kind of social measures to appease angry voters and show them that the much-heralded economic recovery is trickling down to households.