Outgoing Spanish president Mariano Rajoy has quit his post as head of the right-wing PP party – a move he has resisted making for well over a decade, even at the recommendation of members of his own cabinet.
This totally unexpected step comes just five days after Rajoy lost a no-confidence vote in Parliament which has put his direct rival, PSOE (socialist) leader Pedro Sánchez, in the presidential seat.
Rajoy has called upon the rest of the PP to prepare an extraordinary general meeting to elect its new leader.
“I will place myself under the orders of whoever you choose and, when I say ‘under orders’, I do mean ‘under orders’,” Rajoy told his ex-cabinet.
“I think the moment has come to draw a line under things – the PP has to carry on advancing and building its history of service to Spain under the leadership of another person.
“It’s the best thing for me and for the PP or, in other words, the best thing for the PP and for me.”
He said the party needs ‘a new leadership’ and ‘more energy and excitement than ever’.
“For 37 years, I’ve served the party in every type of role – I’ve been an ordinary subscribing member through to national leader, and also representative of numerous institutions, from councillor in Pontevedra [Rajoy’s native city, in Galicia] through to president of the Spanish government – and in all this time, I’ve done nothing more than fulfil my duties.”
Rajoy had some harsh criticisms for his successor as president, Pedro Sánchez, and also centre-right Ciudadanos whose support was all that allowed him to govern after the last general elections.
He also succinctly summed up the ‘successes’ of his six-and-a-half years in office, including ‘preventing an EU bailout’, the ‘end of ETA’, and the fact that in Catalunya ‘independence did not happen’ and that its former leader Carles Puigdemont is no longer its president, ‘nor does anyone in jail or in exile form part of Catalunya’s regional government’.
Concerning the massive Gürtel bribery and money-laundering racket – which ended with the PP becoming the first-ever political party to be found guilty of corruption by a court of law – Rajoy spoke of ‘inquisitors’ and ‘lies’ from his political rivals ‘used to attack’ the PP, his government and himself, and dubbed the comments surrounding Gürtel as ‘post-truth’.
Rajoy admitted there ‘had been corruption’, but that his government had ‘taken steps to fight it’.
He also stressed the fact that he and the PP had not lost the presidency because ‘the people’ chose to oust them, but because of the opposition.
“On the contrary – the people of Spain gave us a mandate at the polling stations in response to our management and governing which we are obliged to remember and value,” Rajoy stated.
Pedro Sánchez’s government is, according to Rajoy, a ‘collective disorder’ led by ‘someone who lost the elections’ – and, although he recognised the no-confidence vote was ‘legitimate’, he said it had ‘set a very worrying precedent for Spanish democracy’.
“It means that someone who has been systematically rejected by the people of Spain when their opinions were asked at the polling stations is now running the country,” Rajoy argued.
“And this is a stigma that is going to accompany the new government from start to finish.”
This is the first time in Spanish democratic history that a no-confidence vote has led to a government being ousted and a new president is sworn in, and as the votes in favour came from left-wing Podemos – Spain’s third-largest political force – and a collection of regional parties, Rajoy has already referred to Sánchez’s cabinet as a ‘Frankenstein government’.
“The new president is accompanied in his leadership by extreme left-wing and sectarian separatist groups,” says Rajoy.
Sánchez’s government is the smallest in Spain’s political track record, holding just 84 seats in Parliament out of a total of 350, and will have the PP’s ‘seasoned opposition’ in its efforts, Rajoy said.
“We know how to govern and how to be the opposition, and this government is going to have a practised, experienced and veteran opposition in the shape of the PP,” Rajoy stated.