While in the ranks of the Popular Party the eternal debate has resurfaced on whether its leader, Pablo Casado, should undertake a turn to the center after the Basque and Galician elections of 12J –In which the PP + Cs coalition, his personal bet, failed in the Basque Country, while the moderate baron Alberto Núñez Feijóo achieved his fourth absolute majority in Galicia–, one of the leaders most internally questioned precisely for his harsh tone and his postulates Right-wing, the PP spokesman in Congress, Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo, has seen this week reinforced its hard core in the parliamentary group with the entry as deputy of Gabriel Elorriaga.
The ‘Aznarism’ manages to establish its power in the PP of Pablo Casado
The parliamentarian – who returns to Congress where he already had a seat between 2004 and 2016 – was sworn in on Tuesday, just before the debate on the opinions of the Commission for Reconstruction began, and replaced ex-minister Isabel in the seat. García Tejerina, who left politics last week after being signed by the prestigious multinational consulting firm Ernst & Young.
Elorriaga is a leader of the highest confidence of Álvarez de Toledo and is considered one of the representatives of the aznarism –Political family from which the parliamentary spokesperson and Casado himself come– due to their proximity to former Prime Minister José María Aznar.
Patron of the FAES Foundation chaired by Aznar himself, the new popular deputy was deputy director of the Cabinet of the Presidency of the Government of the former chief executive. Already with Rajoy, Elorriaga was the party’s communication secretary between 2004 and 2008 and was in charge of directing the 2008 electoral campaign in which the former PP leader failed. Then he distanced himself from Rajoy and he was very critical with his leadership and with the direction of the party, like Álvarez de Toledo herself and other leaders aznarists.
Elorriaga attended the general elections on November 10 as number 11 on the PP list for Madrid. The conservative formation only achieved 10 seats in that constituency, headed by Casado himself, and therefore Elorriaga did not manage to be elected deputy. Given this unforeseen event, last December Casado was forced to relocate him as head of the PP’s advisers in Congress, a position he exercised side by side with Álvarez de Toledo, with whom it is usual to see him in the hallways of the Chamber or in any public act.
Elorriaga is part of the team closest to the parliamentary spokesperson, a group that also includes the head of the Cabinet of Álvarez de Toledo, the aznarista Alfredo Timermans –that became Secretary of State for Communication in the last Aznar government – or the deputy for Madrid, the journalist Pilar Marcos.
The consolidation of Aznar’s collaborators
Just a few days after Casado won the primaries against Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, just two years ago, Aznar I stepped on the national headquarters of the PP from Calle Génova number 13 in Madrid years after leaving the party due to his profound disagreements with Rajoy, whom he himself had chosen as his successor in 2004.
Since then, Aznar, Casado’s political godfather – the PP leader today was his chief of staff at the FAES Foundation for years – has not only become one of the main advisers to the popular leadership. It has also managed to place some of its main collaborators in the strategic positions of the party. All of them were characterized in recent years his harsh criticism of Rajoy, who considered that he had betrayed the “principles” of conservative training for carrying out a more focused policy than that of his predecessor in office.
The emergence of this sector, in which Álvarez de Toledo, Isabel Benjumea –one of Casado’s leading advisers– or the PP’s leading economist, Daniel Lacalle, have been instead viewed with suspicion by much of the party, which bets on more moderate ideas and forms.
The 12J elections, in which Casado’s right-wing gamble in the Basque Country failed – the PP + Cs candidacy led by Carlos Iturgaiz lost three of the nine seats won by the PP alone, in 206–, while the moderate profile of Feijóo –which swept away– revived the voices that demand a more focused profile from Casado. Barons such as Feijóo himself, the Andalusian, Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla, or the President of Castilla y León, Alfonso Fernández-Mañueco, have since performed constant calls for moderation, which were transferred to the National Executive Committee of the PP that was held on the 15th at the national headquarters on Calle Génova in Madrid.
“The old hook on the left”
In private, different popular leaders are betting on Casado to award visibility charges to the most centrist leaders of the PP like Vice President of Congress Ana Pastor, which in the middle of the pre-campaign he placed as the main visible face of the party in negotiations with the Executive for reconstruction after the pandemic. On the contrary, they ask the popular president to weaken some of the right-wing leaders, such as Álvarez de Toledo, promoter of the failed agreement with Ciudadanos in the Basque Country, which was maintained disappeared throughout the campaign from 12J.
At the moment, however, Casado has no plans to change his strategy one iota. “No one has to lead us to moderation because we have always been in it,” said the PP leader in the Executive Committee on the 15th. “I do not understand that it can be criticized to defend ‘too much’ the freedom of the Spanish; nor Being excessively demanding in defending your job or your well-being. Nor should we remain silent in the face of what we see and what everyone knows is going to happen if the government does not change its steps and plans, “he defended himself, to settle: “Let’s not bite into the old hook that the left always casts over the supposed tension that is only the shadow of their actions, the echo of their insults and the reflection of their propaganda.”