Spain's ruling party embroiled in bribe scandal

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is facing a no-confidence vote after his conservative Popular Party was found guilty of benefiting from illegal funds in a mega-graft trial.

Tonina Alomar
Tonina Alomar NewsMavens, Spain
Spain's ruling party embroiled in bribe scandal - NewsMavens
PM Mariano Rajoy, WikiCommons

Why this story matters:

After 5 years of investigation, the Spanish judiciary has sentenced 29 politicians of the ruling party PP for a vast kickbacks scheme that saw them take bribes in exchange for contracts. The PP as a party has been sentenced of having benefited from illegally funds obtained.

The "Gürtel" affair has cast a shadow on PP leaders and the party for years. Even when taking into account that corruption is widespread in Spain, these are significant revelations.

Following the sentence, the socialist opposition, after a quick meeting, filed a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Rajoy.

However, Spanish politics is so fragmented that there are doubts that this no-confidence motion, the fourth in the history of Spanish democracy, will be successful. The left-wing Podemos, whose leaders have just won a confidence vote from party members after they were asked for approval of their 600,000 euros villa purchase, have given unconditional support to the motion.

The months ahead look like they will be vital for Spanish politics and the future of the country. In a country where the political class is greatly mistrusted and has lost the respect of many, the coming weeks will be another litmus test for the already-battered credibility of democratic institutions in Spain.

Details from the story:

  • Another alternative is that Socialists and Podemos will be supported by the liberal Ciudadanos, who are ahead in all polls. The leader, however, has already issued Rajoy an ultimatum: call an election or face their own second motion of no confidence.
  • The Gürtel Affair is one of the largest corruption scandals in recent Spanish history. The case came to public attention in early 2009, but for the most part the suspects were not put on trial until October 2016.
  • In a 1,687-page judgment, the court found 29 out of the 37 defendants guilty of a wide range of crimes, from taking bribes to document forgery, embezzlement, money laundering, influence peddling and more. The two people at the centre of the affairs were businessman Francisco Correa, who has been sentenced to 51 years in jail, and Luis Bárcenas (ex-treasurer of PP party) sentenced to a 33-year term.
  • The PP has sought to play down the sentence insisting that the PP party did not know what was happening.
  • The case got its code name from the German word for correa, which means "belt" in Spanish.
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