Despite all the rumours, Pablo Casado attended the question session of the Congress of Deputies this Wednesday. As in every such session, there were matters which the Spanish leader of the opposition wanted to put to the prime minister, Pedro Sanchez. But scarcely ten minutes passed between his entrance and his symbolic exit from the chamber. In fact, the still-national leader of the Popular Party (PP) gave up his right to a follow-up comment after the Spanish government's reply. Halfway through the question process, he got up from his seat and left, accompanied by the few from his party who remain faithful: Pablo Montesinos, Antonio González Terol and Ana Beltrán. Ironically, after his first and, as it turned out, his only speech in the chamber, the entire PP parliamentary group applauded him. The same group that has abandoned him over the last day and called for a special party congress. Casaso was very much alone and the moment had an air of farewell.
The pressure was completely unsustainable within the PP and last night Pablo Casado ended up giving in on the two moves that critics were asking him to make. The first was to deliver the sacrificial head that was demanded, that of his right-hand man and general secretary, Teodoro García Egea, who resigned. The second was to call the party's 550-member national board of direction next Tuesday so that it, in turn, can call a special party congress to elect a new leader. By these means he sought to avoid resigning, but his leadership seems completely doomed. The pressure he has received also included that of the congressional spokesperson, Cuca Gamarra, and the leadership of the parliamentary group.
Pablo Casado arrived two minutes before the start of the question session, accompanied by the deputy speaker of the chamber, Ana Pastor, and made one short speech, which did not even contain a question and sounded like a farewell note. The current Spanish president of the PP asserted that his party has tried to "widen the space of centrality" so that both the PP and the Socialists can govern "without the need for pacts with those who do not believe in Spain or alliances with those who are attacking it." And he made a general defence of his political career: "My understanding of politics is based on the defence of the noblest principles, respect for opponents and dedication to comrades. Everything in the service of Spain." The speech ended with a long round of applause from all the party deputies, who rose to their feet.
In his response, Pedro Sánchez refrained from going after blood: "From a position of difference and discrepancy, I personally wish you the best." The Spanish PM did criticise the two years of opposition in which the PP was "installed in constant disparagement, denying even an essential democratic principle such as the legitimacy of this government." Despite the context, the Socialist leader also made it clear that his government "will not bring the elections forward or dissolve parliament early". The election will take place "at the appropriate time" and his party would compete "on the basis of our merits and not on the basis of the weaknesses" of the opponents, he concluded.
Following this response, despite being entitled to a follow-up, Pablo Casado decided to leave the chamber. He was accompanied only by his last remaining allies: Pablo Montesinos, the PP's deputy communications secretary; Antonio González Terol, deputy secretary general, and Ana Beltrán, deputy secretary of organization.
This is probably the last face-off between Pablo Casado and Pedro Sánchez. It is unknown at this time what the PP president will do after leaving the post. There are several voices within the party have, over the last few hours, been calling for a "dignified exit" for their leader, so as not to prolong his agony.