The Irish Times view on Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s mounting woes

Partido Popular leader’s sorrows are mostly of his and his party’s own making

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy during a news conference at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid on Friday. Photograph: Reuters

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy during a news conference at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid on Friday. Photograph: Reuters

 

The inertia and procrastination that characterises the political style of Spain’s long-serving prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has often evoked references to Hamlet. This month, Rajoy might have ruefully recalled the words of Hamlet’s arch enemy, Claudius: “When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions”.

In Catalonia, a new first minister provocatively – but predictably – promised to continue moves towards independence and appointed as ministers some politicians facing sedition charges.This forced Rajoy to maintain direct rule, exacerbating the independence movement’s grievances. This is a vicious circle he did nothing to resolve over years when compromise remained feasible.

Ciudadanos still gave tactical support to the budget of Rajoy’s minority government last week. So, more surprisingly, did the Basque Nationalist Party in return for a better deal for pensioners

Rajoy is left with no room to manoeuvre, caught between increasingly irredentist Catalan nationalists on the one hand, and his new Spanish nationalist rivals on the right, Ciudadanos, on the other. This populist party now wraps the Spanish flag around itself even more conspicuously than the prime minister’s Partido Popular (PP).

Ciudadanos’s strident politics is bearing fruit, though it offers few solutions to the country’s economic and political woes. An opinion poll earlier this month showed it likely to gain some 60 seats, with the PP dropping by more than 40. Nevertheless, Ciudadanos still gave tactical support to the budget of Rajoy’s minority government last week. So, more surprisingly, did the Basque Nationalist Party in return for a better deal for pensioners.

This support might have given Rajoy respite had not two judicial decisions late last week highlighted the depth of corruption implicating his party.A High Court judgment convicted a PP treasurer, long defended by Rajoy, and almost 30 others, for institutionalised illegal funding of the party. The court explicitly questioned evidence given by Rajoy himself. Meanwhile, a second scandal erupted: a high profile PP former minister was jailed pending a further corruption hearing.

Rajoy now faces a no confidence motion tabled by the Socialist Party (PSOE) which may oust him. His sorrows are legion but are mostly of his, and his party’s, own making.

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