- Soria resigned from Spanish government over Panama leaks
- Former minister withrew candidacy at government’s request
The Spanish government decided former Minister Jose Manuel Soria’s professional track record made him the best candidate for a lucrative World Bank post four months after he resigned from the administration over the Panama leaks, economy chief Luis de Guindos said.
Spanish officials assessed the experience and technical qualifications of 25 candidates in line with the selection process rules before nominating Soria and the decision was not a political, de Guindos told a committee hearing in parliament in Madrid Tuesday. Socialist opposition spokesman Pedro Saura accused him of lying.
“From a technical point of view and based on his experience, the nomination of Mr. Soria was appropriate,” de Guindos said.
The government asked Soria to withdraw his candidacy after it triggered a storm of protest which jeopardized caretaker Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s efforts to muster the political support for a second term in office. In April, the candidate had resigned as Industry Minister after giving a series of contradictory accounts of his links to an offshore company listed in the Panama leaks.
“If Soria wasn’t fit to serve in the government, he’s not fit to be a representative at the World Bank,” Saura said. “The only explanation is that it’s a payback for doing you the favor of stepping down” which eased pressure on the government ahead of June’s election.
Rajoy said on Sept. 5 that the nomination was a civil service appointment and had nothing to do with his ministers. That explanation began to unravel a day later when the website El Confidencial published a copy of the selection rules which showed the position wasn’t limited to civil servants and the selection panel was headed by Deputy Economy Minister Inigo Fernandez de Mesa and included other senior politicians.
Even some officials from Rajoy’s People’s Party objected, with Regional President of Galicia Alberto Nunez Feijoo, who is seeking re-election on Sept. 25, saying that the decision was “hard to understand for a lot of people.”
Its important to know “why they lied to us,” Albert Rivera, leader of pro-market group Ciudadanos, said earlier Tuesday. “It will be very important to know whether Mr. Rajoy was aware of the nomination.”
The Soria scandal is prelude to the headwinds Rajoy will face over the coming weeks with the National Court due to start two separate corruption trials involving former officials from his party.