Spanish conservative leader steps down after internal battle

Madrid, Mar 1 (EFE).- Spain’s Popular Party leader Pablo Casado, once tipped as a rejuvenating force in Spanish conservatism, confirmed Tuesday that he was stepping down in the wake of an internal clash with the regional leader of Madrid, one of the party’s new rising stars.

Casado, 41, announced he would not run in a leadership vote expected at a snap party congress called in the wake of the crisis at the heart of the PP, a bastion of Spanish conservatism currently leading the national opposition.

“I have a clear conscience, full of thanks and without anger or frustration. You have allowed me to be a part of Spanish history,” he said.

“The Popular Party belongs to its members but also to all Spanish citizens. That is why I am sorry for everything I did wrong and the situation that our supporters and voters had suffered this week,” he said.

“And I also feel sorry, I have to say, for the reaction I had to face,” he added.

Casado took to the helm of the PP following the ousting of former prime minister Mariano Rajoy in 2018 and presided over the party in the two general elections held in 2019, which were marked by political deadlock and the rise of the far-right Vox.

The beginning of his demise as PP leader began earlier this year when he engaged in an internal tussle with Isabel Diaz Ayuso, Madrid’s popular but divisive regional president.

The PP’s national leadership opened an investigation into Diaz Ayuso’s regional government amid claims that a face mask contract handed to a company in the early stages of the pandemic involved a substantial commission paid out to her brother.

The internal scrap escalated when Diaz Ayuso claimed she was the victim of a smear campaign and accused her own party of “spying” on her.

Although the PP closed the probe, claiming Diaz Ayuso had offered adequate explanations and that the commission paid to her brother was above board – the PP and Vox have since blocked opposition scrutiny of Covid-19 contracts handed out by the Madrid government – the damage was done for Casado.

The next party leader will be appointed at the snap congress, with Galicia’s current regional chief Alberto Núñez Feijóo tipped as favorite. EFE


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