People walking past the Madrid restaurant Arahy last evening, near Puerta de Alcalá, where curious as to what was going on inside – why were there so many journalists hanging around? Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is in there, they were told. “But isn’t he in Congress?” asked one woman, clearly surprised. Such naiveté among the general public is quite comforting, really.
The pedestrians on that Madrid street were yet to find out that Rajoy had not been in Congress since 2pm, when he left, clearly annoyed, leaving no clues as to where he was going while his own no-confidence motion debate played out in Spain’s lower house. The parliamentary session continued late into the night regardless, without any response from the absent prime minister to the statements being made about his leadership by opposition politicians.
Deputies addressed the handbag of Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, which was placed in Rajoy’s seat
Those who took the podium in Congress instead addressed the handbag of Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, which was sitting in Mariano Rajoy’s seat, and there were those who claimed that the accessory was able to create a sense of state more or less equivalent to that of Rajoy himself.
Spanish TV channel La Sexta managed to find out where Rajoy had gone to eat, and it started the stopwatch: he spent a full eight hours in there. Lunch, coffee, a cocktail and a cigar with his minister chums, ignoring all that boring stuff going on in Congress.
The restaurant has an air of Eastern fusion, and the menu offers plenty of options for an afternoon of dining, including a tasting menu that costs €60. There is butterfish with truffles, creamy croquettes with boletus mushrooms, all kinds of sushi, and Galician beef steaks. Desserts? Perhaps Rajoy opted for the mango with ginger and strawberries, while in Congress the Basque Nationalist Party spokesperson, Aitor Esteban, announced that his party would be supporting the motion of no-confidence, effectively sealing Rajoy’s fate as prime minister.
There are few times when the PP’s parallel reality has been so perfectly captured
There to hear him speak was Deputy PM Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría and six other PP ministers, who grabbed a quick bite in Congress and went back to their seats. We can assume that they sent Rajoy a text message, and that he relayed it to his lunch companions. Who knows whether he was depressed, euphoric, or discussing resignation – but that of Zidane from Real Madrid, not his own.
Once word got out in the afternoon of Rajoy’s whereabouts, journalists and inquisitive members of the public began to gather outside the restaurant, while the prime minister’s security team started to plan how to get him out of there without it all appearing too surreal. His bodyguards came and went from the entrance next door, which must have had a way into the restaurant. But residents calmed the nerves of the press: “There’s no back door!”
In the end, Rajoy had to exit via the main door – not that of Congress or the Moncloa prime ministerial palace, but of a restaurant. Before he left he gave the chef a hug, maybe for having helped him forget that he had to go to a session in Congress, and on the day he was being ousted, no less.
He had a tight smile on his face while his bodyguards escorted him to his car. Perhaps he was surprised that it was already dark out. He seemed overwhelmed by the number of people standing outside, and by all the camera flashes. There are few times when the PP’s parallel reality has been so perfectly captured. His government going down the drain. The country watching events in Congress. And Rajoy smoking a cigar in a restaurant’s private room. In the end, Arahy turns out to be a very appropriate name, because it apparently means “change” in a Native American language.
English version by Simon Hunter.