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New faces in the Andalusian government

Regional premier Griñán is stepping down to avoid hindering the administration with the ERE case

Barely two months after announcing his intention not to run for re-election in 2016, the premier of Andalusia’s regional government, José Antonio Griñán, yesterday made his resignation from the post official, opening the door to the investiture of his successor, Susana Díaz, on September 5. Within a very brief interval, the premier has backed off from his initial promise to serve out his mandate, as well as to hold primaries within his party for his choice of replacement — elections that never ended up taking place. Also fallen by the wayside is the claim that his withdrawal was due to personal reasons, and had nothing to do with the ERE corruption scandal, which involves the embezzlement of subsidies from the region’s labor department to cover the cost of companies executing mass layoffs.

The personal reasons are not just a pretext, and are actually real. But a weighty factor in his decision is what he now admits is a precautionary move to prevent any judicial consequences from falling on the Andalusian government: i.e., should he be charged in the ERE case, which is currently under investigation by Judge Alaya, it should not happen while he is still premier. Such an outcome is possible, although he has always insisted on his innocence.

The principal accusation proceeds from the comptroller in place when Griñán was regional economy chief, who states that he sent no less than 15 reports to the department, warning that its labor section was “entirely disregarding the administrative procedures specified in the law” when granting subsidies for EREs. Griñán alleges that he never read those reports, while the man who was then his department sub-head has stated that he never passed them on to him.

It is almost certain that Griñán will be given a Senate seat, but the argument that this is intended to preserve his parliamentary immunity is not entirely valid, for he would keep this status as a member of the regional parliament, a post he will not be giving up in any case. He also remains president of the Socialist Party (PSOE).

The PSOE is now preparing its national conference, which will be held in November, with the aim of updating its political program and its strategy. Only after the conference, should party leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba’s schedule be kept to, will a changeover of the regional leaders be broached, and effected by means of in-party primaries. Circumstances have led Andalusia to an early changeover, but also to an exhibition of weakness. The successor, age 39, is seen as the centerpiece of a generational changeover, and is to form a government without any of the figures from the time of previous regional leader, Manuel Chaves, during which the ERE scheme was devised, so that the new team can govern without this hindrance.

But Susana Díaz must clear up some doubts. She was not elected in a primary, because none of the other candidates had the necessary backing; and she is a person closely connected to the organization of a party that has been governing for 31 years. When picked for the post she somewhat naively painted her own portrait by remarking: “For someone who considers the party her family, a thing like this is great, really great.” But her political godfather has a reputation of being refractory to the party organization: of being a public servant, rather than a party leader.