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22nd July 2018, 13:20

Spain's Partido Popular moves to the right as Casado elected leader

Spain’s Popular Party elected communications secretary Pablo Casado as leader at a party congress in Madrid on Saturday.

He replaces Mariano Rajoy who was ousted as prime minister in June; after Rajoy lost a motion of no confidence in the national parliament, Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez took over as prime minister.

Mr Casado, a 37 year-old party secretary for communications, beat the former Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, securing 57 percent of votes at the congress.

The PP to move to the right under Casado

The young politician has promised ‘the return of the PP’. His leadership campaign suggests the conservative PP will be shifting further to the right than under Mr Rajoy. He wants to: bring back Spain’s 1985 law on abortion, promising to defend 'life' and 'family'; challenge Mr Sanchez’s drive to legalise euthanasia, and; he wants to outlaw separatist parties pushing for independence from Spain, most notably in Catalonia and the Basque regions.

Respecting Spain’s past

Mr Casado has also been critical of Mr Sanchez’s plans to exhume the remains of Francisco Franco, the fascist dictator who ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975. Franco is notorious in Gibraltar for ordering the closure of the border. The move divided families and communities; it was considered to be the culmination of a series of actions designed to bring Gibraltar to its knees.

The dictator's remains are buried 33 miles outside Madrid, under a 500-foot cross sitting atop a basilica at a monument known as the Valle de los Caídos or “Valley of the Fallen.” But the new Socialist prime minister has pledged to remove him from the site, reigniting a divisive, long-running debate in Spain about Franco's state-supported resting place. It prompted protests by far-right supporters.

Mr Casado says he wouldn’t spend one Euro on digging up Franco and that the PSOE threatens to tear up Spain’s past and her “deepest feelings”.

Casado on Gibraltar

In February last year he told Spain’s ABC newspaper that the PP government’s joint sovereignty proposal offered Gibraltar a chance to stay in the European Union after Brexit. He said, regardless, Spain would continue to push at the United Nations for Gibraltar to be decolonised and for Spain's territorial integrity to be restored.

Masters controversy

But he is already courting controversy as an investigation probes alleged irregularities in the way his master’s degree in public regional law was awarded by King Juan Carlos University: he admits he did not attend class, he did not take exams and he did not produce a thesis. 

Mr Casado will be preparing the PP for a possible snap election; analysts have predicted that Spain’s political instability will endure and that Spaniards will go to the polls before the current mandate ends in July 2020.