Spanish opposition leaders are invoking their one-time nemesis, Jose Maria Aznar, in a bid to exploit graft allegations against Mariano Rajoy’s government.
For 11 days, Socialist party chief Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba has called for Rajoy to quit in language that echoes Aznar’s drumbeat in 1994 that then-Socialist premier Felipe Gonzalez throw in the towel amid his own corruption scandals.
At the time, Aznar hammered Gonzalez with the phrase “vayase Senor Gonzalez” -- “leave” -- that became the hallmark of his opposition. Rubalcaba, who was defeated in 2011 elections by Rajoy, capped his party’s daily attacks in speeches and interviews yesterday saying “give up, leave it.”
“It’s what he has to do,” Alejandro Quiroga, a senior lecturer in Spanish history at Newcastle University, said in a telephone interview. “If we were in a normal place, Rajoy would have resigned by now.”
Rajoy, in office 14 months, has sought a European bailout of Spanish banks and fought to avoid a sovereign rescue as the economy enters its sixth year of a slump. At the same time, he is battling to control the fallout from reports by the newspaper El Pais that former ruling PP party treasurer Luis Barcenas made illegal cash payments to Rajoy as well as to former Finance Minister Rodrigo Rato and party chief Dolores de Cospedal during more than a decade.
Rajoy has denied the El Pais report that he accepted more than 250,000 euros ($334,000) in cash payments over an 11-year period. Cospedal also denied the reports. Rato’s lawyer Ignacio Ayala declined to comment through his assistant.
Amid reports of embezzlement and fraud by public officials, Aznar attacked Gonzalez over corruption and demanded he resign. “Leave, Senor Gonzalez, you have no other honorable options left,” Aznar told Gonzalez in parliament in April 1994.
Two years later, Aznar defeated Gonzalez in the 1996 election, ending his 14 years in office.
While the corruption allegations cut support for Rajoy’s PP by 6 percentage points in a month, according to a Metroscopia poll published by El Pais on Feb. 3, Rubalcaba hasn’t benefited. The two parties were tied at 24 percent in the Jan. 31 to Feb. 1 poll of 1,000 people where Rubalcaba has languished for the past year.
Rubalcaba yesterday attacked Rajoy for cutting benefits for workers, undermining health care and education and protecting Barcenas instead of addressing the allegations against his party.
“You are not fit to tackle this political crisis,” he said. “I call on you to give up, leave it. You can’t resolve the political crisis that Spain is facing and you yourself have created.”