Two top PP officials resign to help party reach regional investiture deal

Conservative nominee Cristina Cifuentes needs support from Ciudadanos to get instated

Lucía Figar announces her resignation on Thursday morning.
Lucía Figar announces her resignation on Thursday morning.Luis Sevillano

Two top Madrid government officials on Thursday announced their decision to resign in order to facilitate a deal between their own Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos, an emerging force that holds the key to power in the regional assembly.

Lucía Figar, head of the regional education department, and Salvador Victoria, in charge of justice and internal affairs, are both caught up in a judicial inquiry into a bribes-for-contracts scandal known as the Púnica case.

On Tuesday of this week, a judge decided to formally include them in his investigation of a ring that is believed to have unlawfully awarded as much as €250 million in public contracts. More than 30 people, most of them with ties to the PP conservatives, were arrested when the case broke in October.

The problem with the PP is whether Cifuentes has the freedom to wipe out corruption”

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera

“I said months ago that I would give up politics. I don’t want my permanence to hurt the formation of a government in Madrid,” said Figar at a press event on Thursday morning. Victoria, for his part, announced his decision a few minutes earlier in a press release that said he was stepping down “to facilitate the pact” between the PP and Ciudadanos.

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera, who campaigned for the May 24 local and regional elections on a message of national democratic renewal, had been warning that he would not support any investiture deals with a party that did not move to throw out corruption suspects from its ranks.

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera says his pressure has caused the resignations.
Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera says his pressure has caused the resignations.Susanna Sáez (EFE)

After sustaining heavy losses on May 24, the Madrid regional assembly is now one of the PP’s last great hopes of retaining power in a key area of Spain. With public officials due to be sworn in on January 9, the PP’s nominee for the regional premiership, Cristina Cifuentes, needs Ciudadanos’ yes vote to secure the regional premiership.

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera said that the back-to-back resignations by Figar and Victoria were the results of his party’s pressure on the PP.

“Some people say that nothing has changed in Spanish politics, but here is the evidence. We are seeing the first fruit of the conditions we established,” he said. “Things are changing not because they like it, but because otherwise they don’t get to govern.”

However, Rivera warned that Ciudadanos would still vote no to Cifuentes right now, since she has yet to sign their list of anti-corruption measures.

“The problem with the PP is whether Cifuentes has the freedom to wipe out corruption. That is the great question we are asking ourselves,” said Rivera on the television network La Sexta. “It’s not that I particularly distrust Cifuentes as a person; the problem is that she heads a list that she did not draw up herself, and she does not preside the Madrid PP.”

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