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In political terms, it is trench warfare. After the emergence of allegations that those close to Spanish Popular Party leader Pablo Casado had engaged in espionage against the interests of the Madrid regional president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the simmering conflict within Spain's main right-wing party, centred on who shall lead it - and in what direction - has boiled over. Accusations and counter-accusations, resignations, reproaches, attacks... As the internal warfare has become cruder, the positioning of different party figures in the confrontation has become crucial - and may have drastic future consequences. Ayuso or Casado, Casado or Ayuso: who is on each side in the PP's great mud fight?

The Ayuso team

Supporters of the Community of Madrid president have their own hashtag, #YoConAyuso, and many party members have added it their social media messages to show their colours in the PP leadership battle. In fact, on Thursday, many party members demonstrated outside the PP headquarters in Madrid's Calle Génova to support Isabel Díaz Ayuso. But looking at the leaders, it should be noted that the former president of the Community of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre - and once a candidate for national PP leadership herself - has spoken out in Ayuso's defence. Aguirre said that Ayuso has been "extraordinarily loyal to the party at all times", and was critical of Casado's right-man hand, Teodoro García Egea. "When you accuse someone of something, you have to present evidence," said Aguirre, referring to the PP secretary general's suspicions about Ayuso's possible corruption. And thus she called for his resignation. Meanwhile, the president of the Xunta de Galicia, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, considered it "unprecedented and unforgivable" that someone from the party's national executive had paid someone to snoop on the Madrid regional president. Whoever is responsible "will have to explain why and take responsibility," he said.

It should also be noted that the PP politician who was Casado's great hope as candidate in Catalonia, Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo, has also joined Ayuso's side and has been vehemently critical of the current national leader. "What we have seen and experienced this morning is probably the biggest and most absurd crisis in the recent history of the PP. There is only one person responsible. That is why I am forced to demand the resignation of Pablo Casado as PP party president," said the parliamentary spokesperson. Finally, and predictably, ministers of the Community of Madrid government have aligned themselves with their president: education head Enrique Osorio; economy and treasury minister, Javier Fernandez-Lasquetty; and culture minister, Marta Rivera, have all closed ranks with Ayuso.

The Casado team

If Ayuso has the grass roots, Casado has the top brass. Most of those occupying positions of power in the party give their support to the current leader. Starting, obviously, with the general secretary of the PP, Teodoro García Egea. Also with Casado is the mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez Almeida, and the city councillor Andrea Levy, who sits on the party's National Committee for Rights and Guarantees. In fact, this body is in charge of directing the information-gathering inquiry that has been launched against the Madrid leader. The list of those in the Casado camp goes on and on: the deputy secretary for social policy, Ana Pastor (former speaker of the Congress of Deputies); party spokesperson in the Senate, Javier Maroto; spokesperson in Congress, Cuca Gamarra; the deputy secretary of communication, Pablo Montesinos... Those with most ability to have their voices heard are on Casado's side.

There is Pastor, who has insisted that Casado is working for "a strong and united party, with responsibility, loyalty and generosity." There is Maroto, who has called the current party leader "an example of a politician committed to being exemplary." Gamarra, too, has followed the same line: "In the PP, responsibility, loyalty and example must always guide conduct inside and outside the party with respect to our voters and affiliates." "Proud to be part of your team, president," said Montesinos. Finally, Levy has expressed her "great pride" in being part of the team supporting Casado, "who has worked tirelessly for the people and will be the best president for Spain."


Most leading PP figures have shown a clear preference for one candidacy or the other, but there are those who have better things to do. This is the case of the party president for Castilla y León, Alfonso Fernández Mañueco, who has commented that he has "enough on his plate" already (the challenge of forming a government after last Sunday's elections) rather than giving opinions on the matter. The president of the Junta de Andalucía, Juanma Moreno, has decided to abstain from the "noise" of this controversy. And former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar has kept his distance, but he has made harsh statements on the issue: "The situation in Ukraine is not quite so bad as that of the PP, because in the latter, there are nuclear weapons."