Over the past couple of years, the Tories have had to look over their right shoulder as the swivel eyed loons of UKIP come up on them from behind, now the Partido Popular – Spain’s own Tories – looks set to face a similar electoral threat from the right. The development comes as the party finds itself mired in corruption scandals which allegedly go all the way to the office of Mariano Rajoy himself, the polls are dire, and the party is staring at an ignominious defeat in the elections due in 2015.
Following a number of high profile resignations and back-stabbings amongst erstwhile Partido Popular politicians, speculation in the Spanish media, such as this piece from El Publico, is rife with rumours of the formation of a new right wing party dedicated to the “absolute defence of the unity of the Spanish nation”, a Spanish version of the French Front National. So just like the PP then, only with added xenophobia, homophobia, sexism and racism. It’s like saying scooshy drinks can be made healthier by adding an extra half ton of sugar and more E numbers.
The rumblings started with Santiago Abascal Conde, scion of a family of Francoist politicians from Araba in the Basque Country and formerly a Partido Popular member of the Basque Parliament, who announced in November that he is leaving the party. Abascal Conde detailed his decision in a letter to Mariano Rajoy, published in El Mundo newspaper, in which he called Rajoy a traitor to all the values of the Partido Popular, which came as news to the millions who didn’t think they had any.
As a journalist and right wing commentator Abascal Conde is the author of a number of books denying that the Basque Country has a right to self-determination. Perhaps ironically, the English language report from the Prensa Latina news agency refers to him as an “ex Basque member of parliament”. It’s terribly unfair of them to call him an ex-Basque, Abascal Conde never thought he was Basque in the first place, and doesn’t want anyone else to think that they are members of the Basque nation either.
In 2006 he founded a pressure group called la Fundación para la Defensa de la Nación Española (Foundation for the Defence of the Spanish Nation) which in March 2013 launched a campaign to “deactivate independence movements” within Spain. With the recent declaration by the Catalan Parliament that there will be a vote on independence on 9 November this year, 1.6 million Catalans taking to the streets to demand independence, and statements from the Basque Government that it is planning reforms to its statute of autonomy which will permit the Basque Country to decide its own future, things are going just great for Abascal’s wee campaign…
Undaunted, Abascal Conde seems to have decided that what Spain really needs is a right wing party that is even more set against independence movements than the current Partido Popular. El Publico reports that he is ‘evaluating’ the idea.
The PP’s habitual response to Catalonia, “No you can’t have an independence referendum,” is regarded by Abascal Conde as being soft on separatism. He wants parties which advocate independence to be declared illegal. But he’s a democrat, he’s open to talks and negotiation, just not with anyone who says anything he doesn’t want to hear – things like Ja saps, jo sóc perfectament capaç de definir la meva pròpia identitat nacional. (You know, I’m quite capable of defining my own national identity.)
Abascal, who is accompanied everywhere by a bodyguard after receiving death threats from ETA during the 80s and 90s, is on record as saying that he would prefer a bodyguard to a peace settlement which acknowledged that the Basque Country has the right to decide its own constitutional future. Abascal isn’t interested in a peace process in the Basque Country like that in Northern Ireland, he wants total victory.
The rumours that a new right wing party is in the offing went into overdrive this week after veteran Catalan Partido Popular stalwart Alejo Vidal-Quadras, vice-president of the European Parliament was stabbed in the back by his party colleagues. He’s been removed from the list of Partido Popular candidates for the European elections in May.
Vidal-Quadras was touted by the Hootsmon last year as the saviour of Better Together’s euro-scaremongering when he announced that neither Spain nor France would accept Scottish independence. I’ve already written about Vidal-Quadras and how he’s a bit of an embarrassment even to the Partido Popular, which really is quite an achievement. Despite this, the Scotsman was desperate to present him as an authoritative spokesscarer for the Partido Popular, the Spanish Government, the French Government and the European Union – which is a bit like saying that Wullie Rennie is a spokesman for Professor Peter Higgs because the Large Hadron Collider goes round and round in a circuit just like a bus route. You wait ages for a Higgs Boson then three comes alang at wanst, but whit can ye dae eh?
Even the Partido Popular have finally had enough of Alejo’s patented brand of patrician pig-ignorance, and they’ve been exhibiting it in their own graceless style. In December Libertad Digital reported that during the PP’s wee demo against Catalan indy held in Barcelona that month, the party made use of two “corpulent” men to violently push the mouthy posho away from the centre of the head of the demonstration, so he’d be out of the press photos of the event. According to Libertad Digital, the two bruisers were operating under direct orders from Alicia Sánchez Camacho, leader of the Partido Popular in Catalonia.
Now the Partido Popular has excluded Vidal Quadras from the party list for the European elections in May after Alicia said she “wouldn’t countenance” his return. So that’s Alejo got his jotters. He’s not taken the news well, in a radio interview reported in El Boletin he said Me han enseñado la puerta, tomo nota. “They’ve shown me the door, I’ve taken note.” He spending his fiestas sulking and plotting revenge. It’s not clear yet whether he’ll go quietly, but quiet isn’t his style, join forces with not-Basque counterpart Abascal, or set up some project of his own.
What’s increasingly clear is that the critics within Rajoy’s own party are gaining in strength and confidence. A number of other high profile Partido Popular figures have openly expressed their dissatisfaction with Rajoy’s leadership. Along with Vidal Quadras, two other PP MEPs Jaime Mayor Oreja and Carlos Iturgaiz have criticised the Prime Minister and questioned his leadership, as has the powerful Esperanza Aguirre, the leader of the Partido Popular in Madrid.
A poor showing by the Partido Popular in May’s European elections will further weaken Rajoy’s increasingly shaky grasp on power. It’s not just David Cameron who’s looking over his right shoulder with a worried look on his face.