Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Best Dressed Candidate In Town

It's been a while since I've written about the Gürtel corruption case. Things have been relatively quiet although the investigation continues to proceed and the amount of (usually public) money that was ripped off by those involved continues to grow. Now, with regional and municipal elections approaching in May, the case has returned to prominence because of the effect it can have on Partido Popular candidates standing at those elections. The most notable case is undoubtedly that of Francisco Camps, the Valencian president. Camps looks almost certain to be facing a trial for his acceptance of gifts of expensive clothing from those behind the Gürtel scams. The confirmation of this could easily happen in the next few weeks, leaving the Valencian leader in what you would think would be a vulnerable position.

Today the national PP has, somewhat reluctantly, issued official confirmation of Camps as their candidate for the elections. The party has been dragging its heels on this issue whilst waiting to see what happens in the courts. The word is that PP leader Mariano Rajoy would have preferred to drop Camps altogether, but we know how things work with Mariano and taking decisions. The Valencian PP has forced the hand of the national party by organising their own proclamation of the man who modestly describes himself as the candidate with the most support in the entire history of the Western world! In reality you have to say that today's decision doesn't absolutely guarantee that Camps will make it all the way to election day, although the political cost of replacing him with the campaign ever closer may be higher than letting him stand.

Both Camps and the PP have been engaging in intense background legal manoeuvres to try and delay the announcement of a trial, obviously with the hope that they can kick it into touch until after the elections. This is not because Camps will lose the election, all the signs are that rampant corruption in Valencia is having no effect at all on the PP's support in the region. It's more a question of appearances. Having a candidate who could soon be on trial for corruption forces the PP to openly argue what they privately believe, that it doesn't matter how corrupt you are as long as you can persuade people to vote for you. The philosophy has been best expressed by (who better to say it?) notable tax dodger Carlos Fabra who has claimed that Camps will be absolved by the ballot box.

All of which gives us a taste of what to expect if the PP recover national power in 2012. In true Berlusconi style we can expect a PP government to devote much of its time in office to rescuing its own members from their legal difficulties. All parties are the same, some say, and that's certainly the argument that the most corrupt like to promote as they benefit from such a belief. But there isn't currently any other party in Spain that dedicates itself so energetically to undermining any legal process involving their members as the PP does. Nevertheless, in the interests of balance I'll point readers of this blog in the direction of a map of political corruption prepared by the No Les Votes campaign; created by opponents of the Ley Sinde.


ejh said...

Having a candidate who could soon be on trial for corruption forces the PP to openly argue what they privately believe

Isn't the likelihood rather that they'll say "look, it's only three suits, what a palaver over not very much", until such time as they can no longer deny that it's about a great deal more than that?

Graeme said...

That's more or less what they do now, but once a trial is fixed it becomes harder to shrug off. Which is not to say that Camps can't survive, but his political future is much more limited now than it was a couple of years ago.