Rajoy addresses parliamentarians during the debate. Ó. Chamorro
On the first day of this week’s State of the Nation Debate Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy clashed with Socialist opposition leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba on all issues, except that measures should be taken against corruption.
Despite the latest scandals affecting the finances of the Partido Popular, corruption featured in the debate but did not overshadow other issues. It was, however, the issue that caused the most sparks to fly in the clash between Rajoy and Rubalcaba. In his speech the Prime Minister listed a number of anti-corruption measures but refused to enter into a debate about former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas, the man at the centre of the PP scandal.
He said he found corruption “repugnant” as it “injures democracy and discredits Spain”.
Rubalcaba applauded the measures (the only point on which the two agreed) but suggested they should be brought into force “retroactively”, to cover the alleged corrupt practice on the part of past and current PP leaders and politicians.
Rajoy’s main intention on Wednesday was to paint an optimistic picture of Spain’s current situation. He defended the reforms and austerity measures introduced by his government in the last few months.
“We have prevented a shipwreck,” he said. “Spain has its head above water.”
Rubalcaba, on the other hand, said that the situation the country is in is so “critical” that it could be described as a “national emergency”.
The opposition leader put forward as a priority a constitutional reform as a way of “recovering social consensus”, to change the relationship between politics and people and to reinforce the health service as a fundamental right.
In his initial State of the Nation speech the Prime Minister did not mention the issue of evictions or the health service. He offered no form of self-criticism regarding his last 14 months in office, despite the soaring unemployment rate, and once again said that the situation was the result of the “legacy” of the Socialist government.
The leader of the left-wing Izquierda Unida party, Cayo Lara, said that there was no other “honourable” thing left for the Prime Minister to do than to resign. Lara said that the PP’s “electoral fraud” and the Bárcenas corruption case had stripped the Prime Minister of all “credibility” and “legitimacy”.
Leaders of the rest of the parties represented in the Congreso offered their opinions on the state of the nation on Wednesday and Thursday.