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Scandal Engulfs Spain’s Biggest Party as Rajoy’s Power Dwindles | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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File photo of Luis Barcenas, former treasurer of Spain’s ruling People’s Party (PP), leaving Spain’s High Court in central Madrid, Spain

Spain, April 19- In a Saturday editorial devoted to Rajoy’s problems with corruption, El Pais, Spain’s leading daily, said that they can’t take it anymore, adding that “The PP needs to renew itself thoroughly, to reinvent itself, without Rajoy.” Where ministry officials were arrested for siphoning off public funds, and its Valencia chapter accused by a court of illegal campaign financing ; all since the governing party lost its absolute majority in December, bringing a four-year lock on the legislature to an end.

Thus, the Spanish justice system is closing in on caretaker Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s party as its political power ebbs away. Rajoy’s People’s Party has seen its Madrid offices searched by police, a group of senior Agriculture

Only last week, a local mayor was arrested for tax fraud, a former regional president testified in court on a bribery probe, and a government minister resigned over links to an offshore firm in the Panama papers. However, hat makes this case easier to deal with, is the fact that those who are accused in illegal acts and corruption do not have authority anymore. Where according to Elisa de la Nuez, general secretary of Hay Derecho, a Spanish foundation promoting judicial independence “The fact that some of the people being investigated aren’t in power any longer makes it easier for the court cases to move ahead”.

From his side, Rajoy considers that it’s not right to put the blame on his whole party because of individual cases, and is expecting that Spain’s political impasse will need a redo election and offer him a chance to form a governing coalition as three rival parties, who control 199 of 350 lawmakers in the current legislature, struggle to forge a governing alliance before a May 2 deadline.

While Spanish judges in theory work independently from the government, political control over appointments leaves courts fragile and easily influenced by the outside.

The Socialists, PP’s traditional rivals have their own problems with corruption, particularly in its southern power base of Andalusia. More than 200 people there, many of them regional Socialist officials, are being investigated by a court in Seville for allegedly embezzling unemployment benefits between 2000 and 2011.

The roll-call of PP officials who’ve been accused of involvement with illegal payments includes some of the most high profile figures in the party’s history.

Former deputy prime minister, Rodrigo Rato, who went on to head the International Monetary Fund, is on trial for abusing his corporate credit card while head of Caja Madrid. Rato was also accused, alongside Rajoy himself, of taking illegal cash payments by the former party treasurer, Luis Barcenas.

The PP’s past three treasurers have all been accused of involvement in corruption and National Court Judge Angel Hurtado said there is evidence that the party operated a secret slush fund for senior officials as far back as 1990. Rajoy hasn’t been accused by any court and all three deny any wrongdoing.

After Industry Minister Jose Manuel Soria quit Rajoy’s cabinet on Friday after offering conflicting explanations of his involved with an offshore firm listed in the Panama leaks, El Pais said it was “grotesque, if not alarming” to think Rajoy would still have a role in the country’s future.

The focus on corruption in the PP will only increase during the second half of this year with Barcenas due to stand trial in October. That case will focus on party’s finances between 1999 and 2005. “What we have seen so far is nothing compared with what we could see should Rajoy insist on staying in power,” said Sergi Castillo, author of a Land of Pillage, a book about graft cases in Valencia. In the public perception, “a generation of PP politicians is going to be on trial,” he said.