New PP leader gets to work as party splits refuse to go away

Pablo Casado failed to reach agreement with his rival.
Pablo Casado failed to reach agreement with his rival. / EUROPA PRESS
  • Pablo Casado, 37, won 57% of the vote in last Saturday's leadership contest, but his defeated rival, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, has rejected an offer to join top team

As of last Saturday, the conservative Partido Popular party (PP) has a new leader. At a special party conference arranged to choose the successor of former PM, Mariano Rajoy, 57 per cent of the appointed delegates voted for the party's former communications chief, 37-year-old Pablo Casado.

Although Casado had come second to Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, the former deputy prime minister, in a first round ballot of members ahead of the conference, and both candidates had gone through to the final conference vote, Casado picked up almost all the votes of the earlier rejected candidates, especially third-placed Maria Dolores de Cospedal, former defence secretary. That was enough to give Casado a majority over Sáenz de Santamaría.

Casado is on the right of the party and called in his conference speech for the party to return to its roots. Observers said he had won as he had made a better connection with the grassroots, whereas his rival had a more bureaucratic approach to her candidacy and was too linked to the legacy of Mariano Rajoy, who had only recently been voted out of office as PM in a no-confidence vote led by the Socialist PSOE.

"No need to negotiate"

Despite signs by both leadership candidates that they wanted to integrate their respective teams after Casado's victory, there was surprise on Thursday when Sáenz de Santamaría wasn't given a place on the party's ruling committee.

At a brief meeting with Casado in parliament on Wednesday, Sáenz de Santamaría told the new leader that she would only enter his top team if 43 per cent of it was made up with her supporters, matching the same percentage she got in her second-place leadership position.Casado told the media that he had refused as he was looking to "agree" a top team but, as newly elected leader, he had "no need to negotiate one".

On Thursday, Casado held his first National Executive meeting in Barcelona, a clear signal of his pro-Spanish unity stance and defiance of Catalan separatism.