AHEAD of this weekend’s regional elections in Galicia, Spain’s conservative Partido Popular (PP) has been plunged into chaos after off-the-record comments reportedly made by its leader, Alberto Nuñez Feijoo, sparked controversy both inside and outside his party.
On Saturday, reporters from a range of Spanish newspapers held an off-the-record meeting with a ‘high-ranking source from the PP’, according to one of the publications present, El Pais.
While the newspaper has opted to respect the fact that the meeting was off-the-record – meaning that information is offered to the reporters present for publication, on the basis that the source will not be named – the politician in question is understood to have been Feijoo.
During the conversation, the source revealed that the party would be willing to grant a pardon to the former Catalan regional premier, Carles Puigdemont, something that it has not only ruled out until now but has been highly critical of when promoted by the governing Socialist Party (PSOE).
Puigdemont remains a fugitive from Spanish justice after fleeing Spain to escape arrest in the wake of the 2017 Catalan independence drive, which saw an illegal referendum on secession from Spain held and a subsequent unilateral declaration of independence.
After the inconclusive general election of July 2023, PSOE Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez managed to return to power partly thanks to securing the support of Puigdemont’s party, Junts per Catalunya, as well as another pro-independence group, the ERC, in exchange for a series of concessions.
Among these is an amnesty for anyone involved in the independence drive over the last decade, something that will technically benefit Puigdemont if and when it comes into law.
The PP and far-right Vox have been vociferously opposed to this move, and have either organised or supported a series of demonstrations in recent months to oppose it.
This was why so many inside and outside the PP were so shocked to hear about the apparent U-turn, with Feijoo reportedly stating that he supported a conditional pardon for the Catalan politician.
News sources began to report their stories on Saturday, prompting an immediate classification from the PP itself, which stated that it would ‘never pardon a person accused of any offence should they not show total remorse for their actions’.
What’s more, high-ranking members of the PP took to social media to accuse media such as El Pais of publishing ‘fake news’ and ‘hoaxes’.
“The PSOE launches a hoax against Feijoo and the PP through the newspaper controlled by Sanchez,” wrote PP deputy Edurne Uriarte on X (formerly Twitter). “Manipulation, lies and fake news, [the PSOE is] capable of anything in the face of the electoral disaster that the polls predict for them in Galicia,” she added.
Meanwhile, another unnamed source from the PP told El Pais that he guessed ‘there was some explanation for this but we don’t know what it is. Many of us are astounded,’ the anonymous regional premier told the paper.
One theory that has been widely cited by analysts is that Feijoo was trying to limit the damage should Puigdemont come good on his veiled threat to reveal the content of negotiations between the PP and Junts after last year’s inconclusive elections.
During those talks, the PP may have offered similar concessions to the Catalan separatists such as those eventually granted by the PSOE, and which have subsequently been so widely criticised by right-wing parties such as Feijoo’s and Vox.
The controversy comes at a delicate time for Feijoo, who is from the Galicia region. His party has been in power there for 34 of the last 43 years, and the row risks damaging the PP’s prospects even further at the regional elections on Sunday. The conservative group is losing ground to the Bloque Nacionalista Galego (BNG), according to the latest polling, and its victory is by no means assured.