The same political leaders who demanded Pablo Casado's head yesterday have been summoned to a meeting with him tomorrow afternoon. The embattled president of Spain's Popular Party (PP) has convened the party's committee of regional leaders this Wednesday to a gathering at which most of the so-called barons will be present, including the autonomous community presidents Alberto Núñez Feijóo (Galicia), Alfonso Fernández Mañueco (Castilla y León) and Juanma Moreno (Andalusia) - not Isabel Díaz Ayuso, who although Madrid regional government leader does not preside the PP in Madrid. Sources within the PP say that the objective of the meeting is to prepare a second meeting, of the party's national board of direction, to take place next Tuesday, which, in turn, will discuss the possibility of a special party congress - at which the party leadership would be at stake.
All this after five days of vertigo which began last Thursday with accusations of corruption by the party leadership against Madrid leader Isabel Díaz Ayuso, then rebounded so badly that, by Saturday, Pablo Casado had decided to withdraw the internal inquiry which the party had opened into Ayuso's actions in the affair. Then it was time for the Madrid leader's supporters to take the initiative, with a 3,000-strong protest outside the PP's Madrid headquarters in Calle Génova and widespread calls for the resignation of Casado - both within the PP and in media such as leading conservative daily ABC. Yesterday Casado gathered together the party leadership committee which is his central nucleus in the party in a meeting that lasted eight and a half hours, including the recess for lunch. And it ended at eight in the evening with a brief statement: "The president of the Popular Party, Pablo Casado, will convene a meeting for next Monday of the National Board of Direction, the party's highest body between congresses. This has been decided unanimously in the Popular Party leadership committee". No public appearances, despite strong media expectations. In the end, the meeting will be next Tuesday, March 1st.
The national board has the power to call a special party congress, to elect a new party leader. A favourable vote by two-thirds of this body, made up of about 550 people, is needed to bring about a congress. The board consists of, among others, the party executive, regional leaders and general secretaries, MPs, senators, MEPs, mayors and PP presidents. There, Casado will debate the special congress and the two sides will measure their strength.
Monday was another intense day in the crisis at the Calle Génova headquarters. While autonomous community presidents Feijóo, Ayuso, Mañueco and Moreno stood together to ask for Casado's resignation, the management committee, the hard core, was meeting. The meeting began at eleven o'clock in the morning and went until almost eight o'clock at night. The general secretary of the PP, Teodoro García Egea, himself one of the figures most seriously questioned by the crisis, got on the phone to talk to officials and MPs and to probe the support that Pablo Casado has in the national board with a view to avoiding a special congress. In the afternoon, some key party activists loyal to the current management arrived at party HQ, having been expressly summoned.
The pressure of the barons
While Génova was silent yesterday, the barons did speak. Isabel Díaz Ayuso said: "The situation in the PP is unsustainable." The president of the Community of Madrid, the target of the original accusation and alleged party espionage focused on a 55,850 euro payment by the regional administration to her brother, did not consider the crisis closed. At a public event in Boadilla del Monte, Ayuso demanded that Pablo Casado make strong decisions following the "cruel political attack" she has suffered in recent days. Ayuso set out an expeditious solution: "The damage caused to the Community of Madrid cannot go Scot-free." Nevertheless, Ayuso, seen as the major leadership challenger to Casado at the top of the PP since she won a snap regional election in Madrid last year, took the opportunity to make it clear that she will not be moving from her seat in the regional administration at the Puerta del Sol.
Galician president Alberto Núñez Feijóo and Castella y León head Alfonso Fernández Mañueco also spoke publicly. Feijóo affirmed that in the face of the situation of "collapse" in which the PP finds itself, decisions must be taken "which will not be easy, but complex", yet are "urgent", because "the PP is the the only alternative government to a bad government." In similar terms, Mañueco said: "The PP's voters and mayors in Castilla y León are outraged" and therefore "we demand a quick, immediate and effective solution." In fact, according to sources familiar with the contacts, the regional presidents of the PP held talks over the weekend to assess the situation and possible ways out.