Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Popular Party leader listens to speeches during the first day of a motion of no confidence session at the Spanish parliament in Madrid, Thursday, May 31, 2018. The lower house of the Spanish parliament is debating whether to end Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s close to eight years in power and supplant him with the leader of the Socialist opposition. (Francisco Seco/Associated Press)
MADRID — The rhetoric in Spain’s political crisis, in which Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy faces a no-confidence vote amid a corruption scandal engulfing his party, is turning ugly.
Rajoy’s government and his ruling Popular Party, or PP, have been labelled “zombies” in an editorial by leading daily El Pais.
The PP then struck back, saying the alternative would be for opposition Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez to head a “Frankenstein government” supported by anti-establishment and regional politicians that would be doomed to failure.
While Rajoy’s chances of political survival have been dealt a severe blow, the veteran politician is fighting back. With stability in the eurozone’s No. 4 economy at stake, here’s a look at how the political crisis formed and how it might unfold:
DAMAGING COURT RULING
A Spanish court dealt a huge setback to the Popular Party last week, putting Rajoy under the microscope.
National Court judges delivered hefty prison sentences to 29 businesspeople and PP members, including some elected officials, for fraud, money laundering and tax evasion, among other crimes.
The high-profile case has captivated Spain since the first allegations emerged in 2013 and led to the arrest of PP senator and longstanding treasurer Luis Barcenas. During the high-profile investigation, Barcenas testified that the PP kept a slush fund with donations from private business owners and that some party officials received non-taxable bonuses in addition to their salaries.
Spanish media dissected the case, from an unprecedented raid at PP’s national headquarters, to the destruction of hard drives there, and even published a barrage of private messages between Rajoy and Barcenas.
Last week’s National Court ruling looks at only one portion of the case, the kickbacks-for-contracts scheme in place between 1999 and 2005, when Rajoy himself was moving up the party ladder.
PP was fined 245,000 euros ($287,000) for benefiting from “an authentic and efficient system of institutional corruption.” But perhaps more damagingly for…