The parliamentary opposition is not asking the governing Popular Party to admit that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy lied during his parliamentary appearance to give explanations for the “Bárcenas case,” but only that it be allowed to defend such a proposition and have it debated. The question is whether, when the government is protected by a clear majority, it is possible to hold a debate in the parliament on matters that it finds uncomfortable. The PP’s blocking of the opposition’s initiatives renders the parliamentary function of monitoring the executive’s actions impossible.
The Socialists (PSOE) have put forward a series of proposals calling on Rajoy to explain the contradictions in his appearance on August 1, particularly his statement that Luis Bárcenas was already outside the PP when he, Rajoy, became prime minister. The problem is that if Rajoy makes another appearance in order to clarify this and other points, and it is shown that he lied, he will be left in an extremely weak position.
This is why his party is using parliamentary rules as a stonewall to prevent any such scene from taking place. Only in the face of the Socialists’ threat to bring a motion of no-confidence — which, even when voted down, would constitute a serious embarrassment to Rajoy and his government — did the prime minister agree to the congressional address of August 1.
If Rajoy makes another appearance and is shown to have lied, he will be left in an extremely weak position
The risk was that subsequent revelations on the part of Bárcenas would make it all too obvious that he was lying. This has not happened, but what has happened is that the statements made by the party’s secretary generals have cast doubt on some of the claims he made, revealing, at the very least, an intention to conceal the truth.
To justify the veto against the PSOE’s call for a formal questioning of Rajoy, the speaker of Congress, Jesús Posada, argued that this mechanism of monitoring, provided for in parliamentary rules, applied to ministers but not to the prime minister; and that when José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero was in power it was the PP that proposed the inclusion of this particular possibility in the rules, and the Socialists that opposed it. The spokesman for the Catalan CiU bloc abstained from the vote because, while considering that the rules did allow for this possibility, he disagreed with the questioning being seen as a step toward a formal “reprobation” of the prime minister, with the intention of forcing his resignation — the only constitutional procedure for this being a motion of no-confidence.
Any no-confidence motion will be voted down by the PP’s majority; and this same majority, as was apparent on Tuesday in Congress, blocks any other possibility of political accountability in the form of parliamentary debate — which the opposition keeps calling for, and the PP’s parliamentary steamroller vetoes time and again.
Perhaps, then, the opposition — or at least that of the Socialist Party — will have to dissociate its request for debate, a political weapon of attrition, from its demand for the prime minister’s resignation, an all-or-nothing play. This, out of political realism, and because it surely shares the justifiable concern about possible situations of political instability, when there is no real alternative in sight.