Pablo Casado's strategy appears to be trying to seduce voters his party has lost to far-right party Vox. That was the message of his keynote speech this Sunday at his first full PP party convention since the one that elected him leader last summer. He sold his party as a tactical vote "to free Spain from the nationalist threat and the PSOE surrender".
PP's new leader made a whole string of promises to his party's former voters. First, to "recover the law and social harmony" and to intervene in Catalonia again "without a time limit", specifically in education, the public media and prisons.
He also promised to criminalise the illegal organisation of referendums, to prohibit pardons for rebellion and sedition (the charges against Catalan leaders) and to "apply the parties law" to ban "those that promote violence", by which he means those that support independence. By reforming party funding, he says, "not a single euro of public money will go to those who oppose Spain".
"In short, we'll bring order to Catalonia, and we'll free a whole society kidnapped by a bunch of racist and supremacist fanatics, with the impunity of having the government of Spain in its hands," he said.
Casado takes on Vox's principles
In a convention marked by the sudden growth of Vox, who PP had to negotiate with to get the votes to take power in Andalusia, Casado has taken on some of the far-right party's principles. In the coming days they'll present a "harmony law" to "move on from the fracture caused by the historical memory law". Among other measures, that 2007 bill condemned the Francoist regime, provided for the removal of related symbols and memorials from public spaces and agreed on state help for the tracing and exhumation of the remaining missing, many in mass graves.
He also repeated his "commitment" to the Spanish Constitution and king Felipe VI. "We won't tolerate the decriminalisation of outrages against the crown", he warned, "nor that they should slit open our Constitution".
On the topic of immigration, he called for Spain "to be responsible again", by which he means creating a "serious Spain with secure borders". He supports letting "those who want to live with us, work, and respect our laws and way of life cross legally".
Aware of the fragmentation of the right, Casado called for tactical voting to return to the absolute majorities of José María Aznar and Mariano Rajoy. He said the PP should be the "common home of the centre right" and promised he would come into government with the same strength as his predecessors.
"Spain cannot be united by splitting the vote", he said, adding: "The vote has to be united to united the Spanish people again. As such, we don't only have to call for tactical voting, but for strong, necessary, effective voting, essential to free Spain from the nationalist threat and the PSOE surrender".