• Partido Popular co-founder, former Valencia mayor forced to resign from party
• Refuses to relinquish Senate seat and impunity from lower court prosecutions
Spain’s conservative Partido Popular (PP) on Wednesday forced the resignation from its ranks of the former longtime mayor of the city of Valencia and current Senator from the Valencian community, Rita Barberá, after the country’s Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo) agreed to investigate Barbera on charges of money-laundering related to alleged illegal kickbacks to the PP in Valencia during her 24-year tenure as mayor of the city, Spain’s third-largest city.
Barberá, a co-founding charter member and once-highly regarded figure within the conservative party, nevertheless refused to relinquish her Senate seat, which protects her with impunity from prosecution by any of Spain’s lower courts and leaves her subject only to possible trial by the Supreme Court itself.
PP leader and acting-Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who agreed at end-August to the terms of an anti-corruption pact with centre-right Ciudadanos party as part of his failed bid to form a PP minority government, remained silent on the matter in the midst of growing calls throughout the day Tuesday for Barberá’s resignation from all opposition parties and from leading members of his own party, including the PP candidates for two regional presidencies in key election campaigns currently underway in Galicia and the Basque Country.
The Supreme Court’s decision to investigate Barberá’s role in the alleged kickbacks scheme coincides with serious developments in three other high-profile corruption cases that have tainted the conservative party in recent months, reportedly seen within the PP as threats both to party’s election chances in Galicia and the Basque Country, as well as an anticipated second effort by Rajoy to form a new government next month.
Ciudadanos spokespersons, who has said earlier in the day that they would break off their pact with Rajoy were Barberá not to resign, announced late Wednesday that her resignation from the party was enough to secure their continued support for Rajoy.