The PP returns from the collection of signatures against the Statute – now against pardons – and that of the Plaza de Colón, although with the attempt to avoid the reissue of the cursed photo with Vox. Pablo Casado’s opposition strategy has returned to the hardest line, dragged by the hawks of the right, spurred on by the victory of Isabel Díaz Ayuso in Madrid and because he believes that, now, he is in a position to reach La Moncloa. Casado burns the ships against Sánchez for his plan for Catalonia, backed by the party although with some leaders and barons warning of the risk of losing focus on such a delicate matter for the PP.
The PP remains euphoric after the victory in Madrid, and that explains many things. “I do not remember good news in the PP since I entered the leadership in 2015,” acknowledges a member of the leadership, as an example of the crossing of the desert that the party has passed until reaching this moment, in which for the first Once in the Casado era, polls place him ahead of the PSOE. Isabel Díaz Ayuso’s knock on 4-M has been the most momentous event for the PP since Casado became president in 2018, and since then in the command post of the main opposition party they have changed the pace and tightened the throttle.
The leader of the PP plays strong against a government that now perceives weak. After 4-M, Casado has not forgiven the Executive, either in a diplomatic crisis with Morocco or in the renewal of the expired Judicial Power, which the popular have decided that, in these conditions and with this political climate, they have no intention of renovate.
Sources close to the Madrid president, in fact, value the turn observed towards the most surly line and take part of the credit: “Married sounds good now, when you are in the opposition you have to be seen as the opposition. This pardons thing is unbearable. Sánchez lived after a trompe l’oeil, with a beautiful canvas that Ayuso tore and now you can see that there is nothing there and Casado is taking advantage of that wind in his favor ”.
In the last week, moreover, Casado has gone all out against Pedro Sánchez’s attempt to pardon the leaders of the process pro-independence, an issue that the PP know that arouses a transversal rejection in a part of Spanish society, including the PSOE. The popular leader has decided to go out to collect signatures throughout the country as against the Statute and participate in a protest that will be held in the symbolic Plaza de Colón, where two years ago a right-wing bloc was seen for the first time that only benefited to Vox.
The PP leadership tries to distance itself from that stigmatized photo and has developed a self-defense argument: “In the face of a concentration called by a platform related to the party, in the face of such a serious matter, we could not not go, and it is natural that we adhere. If we decided not to go they would criticize us more. We have proven that our electorate, and part of the Socialist, is very uncomfortable and wants to tell the Government that it cannot bear these pardons. If Vox had not gone, we would have attended the same ”.
The hard-line strategy coincides with the second attempt by the PSOE – after the Statute, 15 years ago – to put the conflict in Catalonia on the way to a solution. In Casado’s team there are also voices that do not want to focus the opposition axis on this matter, since they consider that it is not a strength for the PP due to its past in government and because Vox is always going to beat him in Spanish and a heavy hand. In relevant regional presidencies of the PP caution is requested: “You have to be very careful with how you explain the collection of signatures against pardons. If the interpretation is that we are against Catalonia, the independence movement wins. If the interpretation is that one part of society does not impose itself and corner the other, they will have understood the message ”.
In another regional presidency they agree that “harmony cannot be impunity”, but they reaffirm that Casado must measure firmness in other matters: “He cannot be burning the ships continuously.”
The participation in the protest in the Plaza de Colón together with Ciudadanos and Vox against pardons is controversial in the PP beyond Madrid. “We have an autonomist and constitutional approach. With those who do not have it, it is not good for them to see us together, because we are not in the same position, “say sources from an important regional presidency. “Let’s defend Catalan autonomy, but let’s say clearly that we are going to make no less mistakes by giving a pardon to those who do not ask for it and who will continue to commit crimes.” “What is clear is that none of the conditions exist for Sánchez to pardon a partner, but if from here we give any tool to the independence movement, or to the government coalition, to convey that the PP is against autonomy Catalan, it would be an unintended effect. We are not going to stop being an autonomist party ”, they emphasize in a PP presidency.
In this same line, those who have had government responsibilities in the PP in the last stage with the rise of independence are manifested. José Luis Ayllón, who was director of the cabinet of the Prime Minister of Mariano Rajoy, believes that the PP “has to be able to convey a firm opinion on this issue, but very careful in the forms.” “The PP is managing to build a formulation of its project in recent months in more moderate terms than the legislature had begun, and it should not be modified no matter how serious the situation,” he says. “When the debate is excited it is very difficult not to get excited, but the PP must have conviction and not fall into provocation,” he advises.
This dilemma, in any case, is not solved. Other barons do welcome “unceremonious” opposition to pardons. “We are facing one of the biggest scandals of democracy. The PP can not be more than in the position that is Married “, agree in opinion half a dozen of consulted leaders. “The Catalan issue is very delicate. The PP has made mistakes, but now we are not in one of them. This is not politics, this is law ”, argues a baron, like most of those consulted from anonymity.
The one who has no problem explaining with his name that Casado has no other option before the pardons than the forceful opposition is the president of the PP of Catalonia, Alejandro Fernández: “On this issue there is no debate, no nuances, nor can we think of electoral or territorial terms because it affects the essence of Spanish democracy, the dignity of the institutions, of justice, and President Sánchez has to see clearly our rejection that he has bought the separatist discourse of his partners ”.
The veteran Francisco de la Torre is considered in the PP, after his 21 years with the baton of the mayor of Malaga, as a standard bearer of the great consensuses with the PSOE. In his reflection he tries to understand everything, but concludes that the separatists are making it impossible for Sánchez: “The current political climate does not help understanding, neither between the Government and the PP nor for a dialogue that would be good with the independentists, the that pardons cannot be given to them under these conditions ”. De la Torre dares to give advice with his constructive tone to the president: “It would be necessary to convey to the Catalan leaders the message that for this path of pardons to be understood in the rest of Spain, it has to be within the framework of constitutional, and that simply giving them outside the Constitution is not a good thing ”.
Ceuta and Colón, key decisions
Pablo Casado has tried to make complicated balances throughout his leadership, after three years of electoral campaigns of all kinds and several defeats, but even more since he officially broke with Vox in the fall in the debate of the failed motion of censure. “We have come this far,” he said to the leader of the ultra formation, Santiago Abascal, who took it as a betrayal. Since then, they have not resumed their old good relationships. And these days they have not spoken to coordinate on the participation of both parties in the concentration of Union 78. In the PP they do admit to having had contacts with Rosa Díez, the former leader of UPyD, who now heads that platform with Fernando Savater and María San Gil , but not with Vox.
The PP has greatly hardened its attacks on President Pedro Sánchez, but they specify that they are not the same as the extreme right. And they present some examples of those differences in which they believe they have offered their “outstretched hand”: Morocco, plan b in the face of the pandemic or the decalogue on depopulation.
In the PP they are now trying to project, in favor of the latest polls, a presidential image of Casado. They want a comprehensive and ambitious program on a viable alternative to emerge from the national convention scheduled for fall. And, finally, they insist that the current legislature is already “dead and exhausted.” Both Sánchez and all the components of the Executive, the PSOE and United We Can, as well as other regular partners have stressed these days that there is a long mandate ahead and many issues to be addressed.
To give Casado that profile of State in the PP, the nuances that distance him from Abascal stand out. And there they recall that, as a consequence of the recent diplomatic crisis with Morocco over Ceuta, the party’s steering committee debated whether Casado should go to the autonomous city – as Abascal did – and ended up imposing the decision not to go. They did not want to appear opportunistic or stir the waters any more. In the 13-J protest in Colón, although the PP “will be represented”, they will try to avoid a joint photo with Vox, so there is doubt about the convenience of the leader attending. In any case, the national spokesman and mayor of the capital, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, has already advanced his willingness to be there. And there will be more leaders.
In the PP they state that given the current differences over Catalonia, it will be impossible to agree on the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary, which has expired for two and a half years.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.