Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister of Spain and president of the ruling Partido Popular, has been facing questions over the past six months regarding his involvement in the so-called Barcenas slush fund case. The Spanish daily newspaper El Páis published details in February of illegal payments made by the former treasurer of the PP.
“They are false. Never, and I repeat never, have I received nor have I distributed undeclared money in the party or to others,” Rajoy said in February.
The scandal revolves around the illegal practices of Luis Barcenas, the former treasurer of the party who was appointed by Rajoy and who held his post from 1990 until 2009. The case has continued to develop with details from the case leading the judge in charge to put Barcenas into preventative custody in July.
El Mundo newspaper in Madrid received original pages from the alleged slush fund ledger used by Barcenas last month. Mariano Rajoy’s name appears in the documents. Mobile phone messages between the primer minister and Barcenas from March 6 this year were also released. They show that Rajoy sent messages of encouragement to the now jailed former treasurer after details of the scandal had come to light.
The Barcenas ledgers show that Mariano Rajoy allegedly received over €25,000 per year from 1997 until 2008. The money came from the heads of private enterprises.
Suspicion of illegal practices amongst the ruling party is widespread in Spain with public opinion polls putting corruption second only to unemployment as their main concern. Support for the Partido Popular, which holds an absolute majority in the parliament has begun to crumble.
In the Spanish general elections held on 20 November 2011, the PP won with 44.6% of the vote and 186 seats out of 350 in the Congress of Deputies. However, according to a recent poll, the PP would only get 23% of the vote and 139 seats if elections were held now.
The government’s absolute majority has permitted Rajoy to avoid answering questions in the parliament despite calls by opposition parties. Mounting pressure led to his appearance at the Congress of Deputies in Madrid on Thursday where he denied, once again, all allegations made against him and said he made a mistake in having full confidence in the former treasurer.
“The PP has not had two accounting systems and has not hidden any crime. Have salaries been paid? Yes. Have extra payments been paid for functional duties? Yes. Have advances been paid on justified expenses? That’s also been the case, which is what happens everywhere because it’s right,” he said to the anger of opposition parties and the applause of the Partido Popular.