Corrupt Leader Removed from Power…In Spain
Mariano Rajoy has been removed as Prime Minister of Spain on a no confidence vote by that country’s parliament. The vote means the Socialists, the main opposition party, will now take power behind Pedro Sanchez from Mr. Rajoy’s Popular Party.
In 2009, a judge started an investigation into possible kickbacks received by conservative politicians in return for public contracts. Francisco Correa, a businessman with close ties to the Popular Party, was identified as the ringleader of the scheme, so the inquiry was code-named Gürtel, the German translation of Correa (which means belt in English).
The investigation turned into several separate court cases, involving fraudulent contracts and more than $170 million of public funds misspent by politicians in return for kickbacks.
The Popular Party was then accused of using a slush fund in the 1990s and early 2000s to illegally finance campaigns after its former treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, was found in 2013 to have hidden millions in secret Swiss bank accounts.
Last year, Mr. Rajoy gave evidence in the case, becoming the first Spanish prime minister to testify in court. But he was not accused of wrongdoing and has denied any involvement.
Just last week, 29 people with links to the Popular Party were convicted by Spain’s National Court on a number of charges related to fraud, tax evasion and money laundering.
Among them were the party’s former treasurer, Mr. Bárcenas, who was sentenced to 33 years in prison and fined about $51.3 million. Mr. Correa received a 51-year sentence.
Judges also ordered Mr. Rajoy’s party to pay a fine of more than $285,000 for operating the slush fund.
And the court questioned the credibility of Mr. Rajoy’s court testimony.
Attacks from the opposition
In elections in 2015 and 2016, no party received a majority of the vote. Mr. Rajoy was left heading a minority government — with the support of the Ciudadanos Party — and in a precarious position.
Last year, he survived a motion of no confidence led by Podemos, a far-left party. He also came under pressure because of his failure to resolve a territorial conflict in Catalonia.
A week ago, after the corruption convictions, Pedro Sánchez, a Socialist and the main opposition leader, filed a motion for Parliament to vote on the government, citing the scandal.
Once he negotiated the support of several smaller parties, including Basque and Catalan nationalist groups, he had momentum for the no-confidence vote. In the end, 180 members of Parliament backed the motion, 169 voted against it and one abstained.
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