It seems that many of the country’s former senior politicians are ending their careers in institutions not of their choice, in prison, where last Thursday the High Court convicted 29 of them, including many within the ruling Partido Popular, former friends and colleagues of Prime Minister Rajoy, to a total of 351 years behind bars in the country’s biggest ever corruption scandal.
They include former Party Treasurer Luis Bárcenas who was personally chosen to fill the position in 2008 by Mr Rajoy himself. He was sentenced to 33 years in jail for money laundering, bribery and other related offences
Former Partido Popular health minister Ana Mato was found to have benefited from the graft scheme, involving kickbacks in exchange for public contracts to businesses, and ordered to repay €28,000 while a former PP mayor of Majadahonda in the region of Madrid, Guillermo Ortega, was also sentenced to 38 years in prison.
Judges ruled that the Partido Popular itself benefitted from the graft scheme ordering it to repay around €245,000, making it the first national political party in Spain to be reprimanded in such a case. The judgment also found solid evidence of the existence of a party slush fund.
The mastermind behind the plot, businessman Francisco Correa, who was the Chairman of several companies very closely linked to the PP, was sentenced to 51 years in prison. It was said that his companies obtained privileges and inflated the prices of public contracts. The extra money was then shared among his businesses as well as with members of the PP.
And there seems to be no end in sight of the troubles for the Prime Minister as just last week, former minister Eduardo Zaplana was arrested as part of a new graft probe, and the finance ministry’s second-in-command, State Secretary for Finance José Enrique Fernández, is now also under investigation in another corruption case.
Following Thursday’s verdicts the Socialist PSOE opposition announced a vote of no confidence against the prime minister with the backing of anti-establishment and left-wing parties, while Ciudadanos, which had supported Rajoy’s minority government until now, demanded that the PM calls a General Election.
There now seems to be little or nothing can the PP can do to overcome the fall that has been precipitated by the Gürtel case and the political consequences that the opposition wants to extract from it.
Bit in a televised statement on Friday, the prime minister ruled out calling early elections telling Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera, who wants a fresh ballot as soon as possible, that he plans to serve out his full term until 2020. However, many people feel that without Ciudadanos support there would seem to be little alternative.