PP broken by internal struggle for power

Casado opens a file on Ayuso for alleged corruption and she accuses him of wanting to destroy her

5 min
Ayuso, during Thursday's press conference

MadridThe war in the PP is now inevitable and in the open. The struggle between Madrid regional president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, and the PP's state leadership for control of the party has got dirty a few days after the truce during the elections in Castilla y León. The battle that Ayuso and Casado have been maintaining for months is now mired in accusations of espionage against the former by officials close to the latter, according to several media outlets such as El Mundo and El Confidencial. The alleged operation, which was supposedly planned last October, was to investigate whether the president's brother, Tomás Díaz Ayuso, had taken commissions for some of the contracts made by Madrid's regional government. It has not been, however, until this Thursday that the party leadership has decided to open a file on Ayuso – for the moment, it has ruled out going to the Prosecutor's Office – to clarify this whole case. Why now? Because Ayuso has come out to give explanations about the case and to charge against Casado, accusing him of wanting to destroy her: "It is very painful that leaders of your party, instead of supporting you, are the ones who want to destroy you".

At noon, Ayuso appeared at the regional government headquarters –without accepting questions from journalists– and denied any illegality in the €1.5m contract awarded to the company Priviet Sportive SL in April 2020, during the state of alarm, to supply masks. The president's team has distributed the details of the contract to try to clear any suspicions. What she has not done is deny that her brother charged a commission, which according to published reports would be €280,000. For Ayuso, in any case, it would be within the law. The administrator of the company is Daniel Alcázar Barranco, who, as published by Eldiario.es, is a friend of the president's family.

An hour later, the secretary general of the PP, Teodoro García Egea, appeared –he did accept questions– at the Party's national headquarters in Madrid. Egea stated that the party had suspicions about the contract since summer and that Pablo Casado asked Ayuso for explanations in a meeting in September. In the meeting, to discuss the party congress, Casado explained that he believed that the award was "illegal". The Madrid president then asked her brother, who "confirmed that he had maintained business relations" with the company Priviet Sportive SL, but that "everything was completely legal" and the right taxes were paid.

The PP considers that Ayuso has admitted the party's thesis: that her brother received commissions for this contract. The internal investigation, however, had already begun in the month of October, Egea has said, and Ayuso did not provide any information, but carried out "a massive campaign of slander such as those that took place today". The file that the management has opened this Thursday is "the culmination of the investigations that have been carried out".

Ayuso and Casado this January

The PP threatens to take her to court

Ayuso has criticised Pablo Casado's leadership freely and harshly, whom she has accused of acting with "cruelty" against her to try to wear her down and remove her from the race to preside the Madrid PP. "I could never have imagined that the leadership of my party could have acted in a more cruel and unfair way against me," she said at the beginning of her appearance. Ayuso has described the members of the PP leadership as "foolish" for using her brother to attack her and "discredit her personally and politically".

Egea has answered her with the same coin, warning that he will not accept any accusation that harms his "honorability": "I could never have imagined that the leadership of a party that has given her everything would be attacked in a more cruel and unfair way". Ayuso's words are, for Casado's number two, "almost criminal" and he has threatened to take her to court: "The legal services are studying possible legal actions". And as in war there are always trenches, through the social media, a coordinated campaign of party representatives has already begun to give "encouragement", show "pride" and point to Pablo Casado as "the best president".

Resignation of Carromero for spying on Ayuso

Ángel Carromero, who was close to Casado, has been forced to resign. He was Madrid mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida's general director of coordination and hired private detectives to try to find out whether Ayuso's brother was involved in this contracting and whether he had taken a cut from the company awarded the contract. El Confidencial also explains that Carromero had also investigated Ayuso's ex-husband and an ex-boyfriend to see if they had benefited from Madrid government contracts. Carromero resigned this afternoon. According to the Madrid City Council in a statement, the decision was taken after a "conversation" with Almeida.

Ayuso was told about the investigation in December by Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, a former minister of Mariano Rajoy's government. However, it was never initiated because, according to the newspaper El Mundo, the detective company Grupo Mira decided not to accept the assignment. The PP leadership denies that any detective was hired to investigate it. Ayuso has accused the party of "leaking" against her "honourability" and has assured that she has always acted in a "loyal" way to Casado's leadership, despite the direct accusations she has made this Thursday. "They will not find any corruption in my actions no matter how much they investigate me," she has affirmed. And she has added: "I can make mistakes, but nothing illegal".

Almeida denies the involvement of the City Council

The attempt to contract this private investigation would have been made from the Municipal Housing Company of Madrid (EMAV), according to El Confidencial, so that it could not be directly related to PP's state leadership. And, according to the newspaper, when they found out that Ayuso was aware of it, they tried to place the blame on workers in this public company. As the mayor, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, explained this Thursday, no EMAV contract was found with a detective company.

"There has been no payment from the City Council to obtain information of this nature," reiterated the mayor, who wanted to go out to defend "the honourability" of the institution and has refused to answer any questions as spokesman for the PP. Almeida has also explained that he has spoken with Carromero and that he has denied having made any arrangements in this regard. "If any proof or evidence were to appear, he would be dismissed immediately," he assured. However, his partner in the municipal government, Ciudadanos, did not find Almeida's explanations sufficient and the deputy mayor, Begoña Villacís, has asked that the case be investigated to the last consequences. Ayuso, who sees a manoeuvre such as espionage is "more typical of people who do not know what it is to manage an administration and go from corridor to corridor without any responsibility", has assured that she believes the mayor's words. Carromero nevertheless resigned.

The leader of the party and the regional president of Madrid, in a recent image

The opposition calls for an inquiry

This Thursday was government question time at Madrid Assembly and the opposition has taken the opportunity to dive into the issue. Ayuso had already denied that her brother had charged any kind of illegal commission in the face of criticism, but the opposition has demanded more explanations. In fact, Más Madrid, the PSOE and Unidas Podemos have requested a commission of investigation at the Assembly to clarify the matter, as well as the appearance of the president's brother. Twelve years ago there was already a commission of inquiry in the regional Parliament for an alleged internal espionage of the Madrid PP of senior officials at the City Council, when Esperanza Aguirre was president.

Could Ayuso be expelled from the PP?

The PP statutes provide for minor, serious and very serious infractions, and according to Egea Ayuso's attitude could be included in the third case. "Manifests disloyalty to the party, its governing bodies and representation, understood as any voluntary action or omission that may harm the general interest of the party," says one of the points of very serious infractions. Also "the breach of the duty to collaborate in any internal investigation carried out by the party in accordance with the protocol of reaction to the detection of irregularities". Precisely, Egea has complained about Ayuso's lack of collaboration when clarifying the suspicious contract, but has not advanced how the proceedings could end.

For the moment, Egea has announced the opening of a file, which may end in a sanction. From here, depending on its conclusions, the worst consequences for Ayuso could be: suspension of membership for a period of between four and six years, disqualification from holding office for the same period of time and, ultimately, expulsion from the party.