turmoil hits Spain's center-right party

TURMOIL HITS SPAIN’S CENTER-RIGHT PARTY

SPAIN’S OPPOSITION POWER BATTLE: The ongoing power struggle between the center-right Popular Party’s rising star Isabel Ayuso and party chief Pablo Casado broke out into the open on Thursday as Ayuso accused Casado and his “circle” of seeking to “destroy” her and hiring detectives to spy on her. Playbook takes you through it …

Rising star: Ayuso, the president of the Madrid region, is arguably the Popular Party’s biggest asset. But she has become a serious threat to Casado since she overtook him in popularity and proved she can do what he can’t — win elections.

COVID course: Ayuso made headlines when she broke with the COVID policies of her party — and Spain’s other regions — in favor of an ultra-liberal approach, allowing schools, cultural establishments, restaurants and even nightclubs to open while the rest of the country entered successive lockdowns. Despite heavy criticism from experts, Ayuso’s approach proved popular, so much so that she was confident enough to trigger a snap election in 2021. She successfully focused the campaign on her laissez-faire policies with the simple (or simplistic) slogan “Freedom” and soundbites such as “[What I like about Madrid is] you can change partners and never meet them again. This is also freedom.”

Internal rivalry: Ayuso’s bid to reposition the Popular Party as pro-business but socially liberal proved enormously successful, as she doubled the party’s result and fell just short of an absolute majority. But Casado, feeling increasingly threatened, tried to hit back, launching several failed attempts to force her to reinstate lockdowns and seeking to win back control of the party’s regional wing in Madrid. 

Corruption allegations vs. spy scandal: After reports emerged that Ayuso’s government awarded a face mask contract to a company with “commercial ties” to her brother’s friend, officials from within the party started questioning whether it may have flouted procurement rules. On Thursday, reports emerged that party members close to Casado hired private detectives to look for proof of wrongdoing.

First head rolls: As El Confidencial reported Thursday, the party officials also asked detectives to look into Ayuso’s private life. The spy scandal claimed its first victim last night, as Ángel Carromero, the supposed orchestrator of the spying and a close ally of Casado, stepped down.

politico, 18-II-22