After becoming the first prime minister of Spain to lose a no-confidence vote, Mariano Rajoy resigned from the leadership of the Popular Party (PP) on Tuesday.
He has led PP for 14 years, the party was not ready for his resignation and almost five candidates have emerged to succeed him.
Rajoy has been leading the conservative PP since Maria Aznar’s resignation in 2003 and has served as prime minister for nearly three successive terms: 2011, 2015 and 2016.
“I want to thank you for your support and help… in all circumstances, when we were celebrating successes and when we were facing adversity,” Rajoy said.
Rajoy criticized the incoming prime minister Pedro Sánchez – who “has never won elections” – for forming a government with “uncertain travelling companions.” He also underscored the elements that he would like to associate with his legacy, most prominently, the recovery of the labour market to the levels of 2007.
Addressing the issue of the Gürtel ruling, which triggered the downfall of his party, he said that the PP had political but not criminal responsibility. So far, courts have ruled that the former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas was running a slush fund from 2000 to 2009, evading taxes and receiving millions in bribes. Although the scandal unfolded during his leadership of the PP, he referred to the scandal as “
Rajoy’s resignation opens the way for a race for succession with at least five candidates: Galicia’s regional premier Alberto Núñez Feijóo, the former ministers María Dolores de Cospedal and Alfonso Alfonso, the outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, and the Congressional speaker Ana Pastor.
Cospedal’s candidacy has an advantage in that she is the general secretary of PP.