Saturday, April 24, 2010

Aguirre Still Plays With Three Men At The Back

Unable to hold out any longer against the growing public clamour for more posts about Esperanza Aguirre and events inside the Partido Popular, I think it's time for a Gürtel update. The big news of last week was of course the decision by Luis Bárcenas, the former national treasurer of the PP, to resign his seat in the Spanish Senate. Bárcenas had already resigned, for the second time in a few months, as PP treasurer and the party had even announced that it was no longer paying for his expensive lawyer. So attention had naturally focused on the fact that he remained as a member of the PP's group in the Senate, not least because it is this fact that offered him some degree of protection. By leaving the Senate he loses parliamentary immunity and his case is no longer heard by the Supreme Court.

On the same day as Bárcenas went, another of the PP's accused resigned from the national parliament. Jesús Merino also loses the right for his case to be heard by the Supreme Court and now the accusations against both men form part of the main Gürtel case handled by the Madrid courts. With these resignations the national PP could for the first time genuinely claim that they had acted against those facing such serious corruption accusations instead of just trying to claim that the police had faked the evidence. At the same time they passed the ball back to Esperanza Aguirre who, it should not be forgotten, still has in the regional assembly three representatives elected on the PP ticket who are facing charges. These three have been excluded from the PP group, but they continue to draw their salaries for doing nothing more than show up briefly at voting time to support the PP. Their party loyalty at least is not in question.

Aguirre has made a very determined effort to try and pretend that she has nothing to do with the Gürtel scandal, even though her administration awarded hundreds of contracts to the companies involved. It was her supporters in some of the right wing media who were also gunning for Bárcenas, and indirectly for Mariano Rajoy. At one point Aguirre even made the bizarre claim that she was the person who had originally uncovered the Gürtel scandal. This claim caused great amusement in Spain and led to the #aguirrefacts hash tag on Twitter becoming hugely popular for a series of ever more outlandish claims about things that Espe had discovered or invented. Even Aguirre herself, or more likely the person who pretends to be her on Twitter, joined in the fun. Apart from the continuing progress in the case in Madrid, attention now focuses on the Supreme Court's decision on whether to reopen the case concerning the Molt Honorable Francisco Camps. That decision comes on May 12th.

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