The leader of the Spanish Conservative government Mariano Rajoy will respond for the first time Wednesday in a courtroom to questions about corruption in his party, as a witness in a trial on misappropriations committed in the early 2000s.
This is unprecedented in the young Spanish democracy: never until then, a head of government in office had been heard by the courts.
It is expected from 10:00 (08:00 GMT), in dependencies of the Audiencia Nacional, jurisdiction specializing in politico-financial affairs, in San Fernando de Henares, near Madrid.
This “Gürtel case” file on bribes paid to elected officials and officials of the People’s Party (PP, conservative) in exchange for juicy public contracts haunted the head of government for years.
This is the first of a long series of scandals that have damaged the image of the PP for almost 20 years, which Mr. Rajoy has chaired since 2004.
The Gürtel case, which counts 37 defendants, has been judging since the beginning of October 2016. Its main protagonists are Francisco Correa, an entrepreneur, and Luis Barcenas, former intendant and treasurer of the Popular Party, a time close to Mariano Rajoy.
The facts are from 1999 to 2005 and Mr. Rajoy is not personally implicated.
But the association of Democrat lawyers for Europe (Adade), close to the Socialist Party and civil party in the case, fought to get him to the courtroom, Explaining his party’s “context” in the face of corruption.
Did he close his eyes? Why did not he denounce Correa, about whom he had doubts?
After this affair, there was a rosary of others – the so-called “secret accounting” case of the PP, the section in Valencia of the Gürtel file, the “Punica” case involving elected representatives of the Popular Party in Madrid …
Entrepreneurs, in particular, the construction industry, won contracts, in exchange for “commissions” which directly enriched the elected officials, even going to finance children’s festivals and Jaguars … or directly the party, in view of its campaigns.
The terrain is slippery for Mr. Rajoy who has been ordering the PP for 13 years, and while some investigations are still open. According to the daily El Pais, he has been preparing the hearing for several days with his lawyers.
Corruption also affects other formations and even unions and the world of sport, but it has particularly affected the PP because of its wide geographical spread.
It eventually led to the loss of its absolute majority at the end of 2015 in favor of two new parties: Ciudadanos, center-right, and Podemos (radical left).
Mariano Rajoy must “not only submit to the questions of the judges and prosecutors of the National Hearing but also to the great polygraph that will represent the view of 46 million Spaniards” on this testimony, in principle transmitted on television, Leader of the Socialist opposition Pedro Sanchez.
The magistrates were divided on the appearance, and one of them pronounced against.
In order not to undermine his function, they decided to let him testify on the platform at their level, so that he would not have to look up at them like other witnesses and defendants.
But before arriving in the room, Mariano Rajoy will not escape the cries of protesters who systematically massed around the courts to shout “thieves” when politicians are summoned for alleged embezzlement.