Rajoy rejects calls for resignation and admits “mistake” over corruption scandal
At a special session of parliament yesterday, Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, denied accepting bribes, refused to resign or call early elections, and was accused of being involved in a corruption scandal by the former PP treasurer, Luis Barcenas – now behind bars.
The ruling conservatives have a large majority to stay in power, however Mr Rajoy was under pressure to respond to bribery allegations among its party members.
Prosecutors claim Barcenas hid more than $60 million in Swiss bank accounts. The former politician left his hob in 2009, but remained on the party’s payroll until the scandal broke. He now awaits trial on tax fraud and corruption charges.
Barcenas has testified that he ran a secret illegal fund for Spain’s center-right Popular Party, and confirmed having personally handed Rajoy envelopes stuffed with tens of thousands of dollars worth of cash payments over several years. Over the past months, Spanish newspapers have published a list proving these payments and have handed it over to prosecutors.
Rajoy denied any wrongdoing. However, for the first time, he admitted making a mistake by putting trust “in someone who we now know did not deserve it”. But he denied “committing the criminal offence of covering up for someone who is alleged to be guilty”.
The Spanish PM delivered his prepared statement for over an hour, while the opposition leader, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, repeatedly called for his resignation. Rubalcaba refused to withdraw a motion of censure against Mr Rajoy. “Even if Mr Rajoy did not respect parliament,” he said, “he should respect the intelligence of Spaniards. You must go, Mr Rajoy,” he added.
Revelations of this apparent corruption scandal have touched a nerve in Spain who are experiencing a double-dip recession and one of the highest unemployment rates in the EU.
The scandal originated in a 2009 judicial investigation into corrupt payments involving PP members. The PP’s deputy leader, Maria Dolores de Cospedal, has been summoned to appear before investigating judge Pablo Ruz on 14th August.