The celebration today of Madrid’s Dos de Mayo festivities couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Popular Party (PP) regional government, which is currently immersed in an unprecedented crisis of its own making. Just one week ago, the regional premier Cristina Cifuentes was forced to quit after her involvement in two separate scandals, while the conservative party’s hold on power in the region is far from assured, with elections just around the corner and support for rivals Ciudadanos edging ever higher.
Cifuentes resigned after a security video of her shoplifting in a Madrid supermarket was leaked to the press
Cifuentes resigned last week after a security video of her caught shoplifting in a Madrid supermarket was leaked to the press. For the preceding weeks she had been under increasing pressure to step down due to irregularities surrounding a master’s degree she was awarded from a Madrid university, including the fact she did not attend classes and has been unable to produce her final thesis.
The official Dos de Mayo event on Wednesday was presided by Ángel Garrido in his role as acting premier, and he attempted to convey a sense of normality in his speech. His presence, he said, “is without a doubt a clear display of the stability of Madrid’s institutions, beyond the concrete circumstances of a given moment.”
Without mentioning Cifuentes by name, he referred to the crisis that has engulfed the party, saying that “political vagaries and circumstantial changes should not make us forget our deep-rooted consistency.” He also stated that Madrid “is today, fortunately, a basic pillar of recovery and economic and social growth in Spain.”
Also present at the official event was Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, the PP’s secretary general María Dolores de Cospedal, who was a staunch supporter of Cifuentes during the master’s degree scandal, and two of the party’s vice-secretaries, Javier Maroto and Pablo Casado. There was no sign of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who will have to decide on a replacement for Cifuentes from now until the regional elections in 2019.
Other notable absences on Wednesday included Cifuentes, and her three PP predecessors in the role of regional premier
Other notable absences included Cifuentes, who still holds her seat in the regional government, and her three PP predecessors in the role – Ignacio González, Esperanza Aguirre and Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón – all of whom have been either directly or indirectly linked to corruption cases in recent times.
Both Sáenz de Santamaría and Casado are in the frame to replace Cifuentes, and take on the difficult job of building the party back up in the region and keeping them in power come next year’s polls. Casado’s name is also being bandied about as a possible candidate to run for mayor of the Spanish capital.
For his part, the leader of Spain’s main opposition Socialist Party (PSOE), Pedro Sánchez, called for a clear path toward “democratic and institutional” regeneration in the region after the “uninterrupted corruption cases” that the PP has suffered. He called on Ciudadanos – which holds the key to power in the regional parliament, with the PP only having enough seats for a minority government – to abstain in the upcoming vote to name the new Madrid premier, thus paving the way for the PSOE candidate, Ángel Gabilondo, to take up the role. Ciudadanos has said it has no plans to do so.
English version by Simon Hunter.