One from home, by videoconference, due to an untimely positive for Covid at the last minute. The other, live and direct at the Seville Fair that hosts the XX National Congress (extraordinary) of the Popular Party. The two former presidents of the Government that the right has contributed to Spain have intervened in the first day of the conclave that will enthrone Alberto Núñez Feijóo to instruct the leaders of the party that they once led. José María Aznar, in the distance, to warn that the Galician leader “is an irreversible bet” before the electoral cycle that opens. Mariano Rajoy, before a plenary of more than 3,000 delegates, to claim that “confrontations where there are none” are not sought.
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The first to intervene was Aznar, who recalled the congress held in this same city in 1990 and which served to refound the PP after the Antonio Hernández Mancha fiasco. The former president has assured that “the task” that Feijóo’s PP has ahead “is not different” from the one he assumed then. “We need the same generosity, ambition and responsibility as then”, he has said. “But we cannot fail. And I am sure that we are not going to fail”, he concluded.
In addition, Aznar wanted to indicate that the commitment to Feijóo to replace the resigned Pablo Casado, who was not present during his speech in the auditorium, “is irreversible”. “We are going to put a huge responsibility on him. If we give him the responsibility, we owe him the support”, he pointed out. “His success is everyone’s success. He has to be an irreversible bet”, he pointed out.
Aznar addressed a few words to the PP president who will be tomorrow: “You have been in politics for a long time and you know the terrain very well. This party answers; in the strongest moments it has responded as a solid piece. I ask everyone for the greatest unity and the clearest and most determined support for this new stage in the party under the leadership of Alberto Núñez Feijóo”.
Aznar’s warnings could sound extemporaneous in a congress without an alternative candidate and in which no one has said even a word that could be interpreted as doubting Feijóo’s suitability. But Rajoy has abounded in the lecture on the internal divisions that have led the PP to the worst crisis in decades.
The former president, Galician like the one who will take office this Saturday, has called on the party to flee from divisions and focus on the things they have in common: “Let’s not hold debates about what we share, let’s not look for confrontations where there are none, let us not dispute what we have always agreed on.”
Rajoy has thus requested the union with Feijóo, without it being clear if he was in doubt. “This congress is the result of a shared diagnosis and a shared solution,” he said about Casado’s departure. “We went in united and we will come out better, firmer and more excited to undertake the task that Spain expects of us”, he assured. About Feijóo, he has said: “We have met to choose the best leader and tell the Spaniards that with him, change is not only possible, but is close. It is our message and the hope of millions of Spaniards”.
“People from very diverse backgrounds vote for us and all of them should feel represented in this house”, he added. “Liberals, conservatives or Christian Democrats. We do not ask anyone to give up their ideas or beliefs. Everyone has always fit in this house. We want an open game, not an exclusive club. It is a very large house, with room for everyone. The PP has to be the meeting point for the majority of Spanish society”, he concluded.
One and the other have had a few words for the outgoing president. José María Aznar, who was one of his great supporters and for whom he worked when he left the Moncloa Palace, wanted to “thank Pablo Casado who took the step when he had to take it.” “He took on this responsibility when it wasn’t easy or flattering. He had to face the most sectarian and radical government in Spain. With his resignation, he has given way to this new situation”, he said.
And he has settled with what seemed like a reproach: “Wherever you are, thank you Pablo for your effort.” Casado was expected to be present at the plenary session during Aznar’s speech, but he did so afterwards. When he took the floor, the outgoing president explained, ironically: “I followed Aznar’s speech from where they told me. It’s what he has to be acting president.”
Aznar has been one of the few speakers of the day who have remembered the resigned president. The president of New Generations, Bea Fanjul, has expressly done so before; and the autonomous presidents of Castilla y León, Alfonso Fernández Mañueco, and of Ceuta, Juan Jesús Vivas.
So has Rajoy, who was the first president of the PP who gave him a position in the executive of the party as Deputy Secretary of Communication. “Principles and a common history unite us”, he has said, to quote “Aznar, Hernández Mancha and Pablo Casado” as the last leaders of the party. “Pablo Casado presided over our party in moments of extreme difficulty”, he has conceded. “I value in a very special way his dedication, dedication, courage and enthusiasm when it comes to defending the acronym of our party. Thank you very much ”, he has settled.