Corruption, spying claims spark colossal crisis in Spanish politics

Madrid, Feb 18 (EFE).- Spain’s conservative Popular Party has been plunged into crisis following an all-out confrontation between Madrid’s regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso and the party’s national leader Pablo Casado.

The conflict at the heart of the party erupted into the national conversation on Thursday when Ayuso publicly criticized the PP’s leadership and accused it of waging a campaign to discredit her with corruption allegations, which she maintains are false.

“I could have never imagined my party leadership would act in such a cruel and unfair manner against me,” she told a press conference amid media reports that PP officials approached private investigators to dig up information on Ayuso, which Casado also denied on Friday.

The scandal hinges on a 1.5-million-euro ($1.7m) PPE contract that Madrid’s regional government awarded to a textile company in April 2020, when the country was in the teeth of a strict lockdown that kept the vast majority of Spain housebound for weeks.

Ayuso is facing allegations that the face-mask deal, directly awarded to a firm run by a family friend, benefited her brother, who received a commission allegedly totalling over 280,000 euros ($318,138).

The Madrid president on Friday acknowledged that her brother received a commission from the deal but insisted that it was above board.

A highly popular figure among Madrid’s center-right voters, crowds of Ayuso supporters gathered at the PP’s headquarters — also in Madrid — on Thursday evening to protest against Casado.

Behind the latest scandal at the heart of the PP, a bastion of Spanish conservatism, is a veiled leadership battle.

A former Casado protégée, Ayuso has been widely tipped as the future leader of the party, a notion that was bolstered by her emphatic landslide victory in last year’s snap regional elections in Madrid.

The schism in the upper elections of the party comes as the far-right Vox party continues to chisel chunks out of the PP’s traditional vote share. EFE


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