Until 2018, the PP affiliates had never spoken to elect the leader of their party. It was Mariano Rajoy who, forced by the irruption of the new political actors and by the ‘pulse’ of Cristina Cifuentes in the Community of Madrid, decided to implement the direct vote of the militancy to announce the candidates who could succeed him at the head of the formation. In order to offer greater internal democratization and after years of internal and external pressure, the PP established a double-round system: first, the members would vote for the candidates for the presidency and would choose the list of delegates who, in turn, , they would make the final decision on who should take control of the party in the national congress.

However, this system could have its days numbered in the PP. To begin with, the current congress organizing committee (COC), led by Esteban Gonzalez Pons and ‘Marianists’ like Juan Carlos Vera, contemplates suppressing the voice of the militants in the face of the election of the next president of the PP, a responsibility that Alberto Núñez Feijóo will assume in just two weeks. In this case, it is a “logical” decision, in the sense that the still president of the Xunta will attend the April congress without rivals, which makes him president ‘in pectore’ of the PP awaiting his final coronation.

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“The bases rule out the candidates. When there is only one, what is the point of the militants voting?” Authorized sources from the organizing committee ask themselves. Indeed, the statutes of the PP establish that “the two pre-candidates who have obtained the highest number of valid votes cast by the affiliates will be proclaimed candidates for the presidency of the party, for their election by the delegates in Congress”, a system that served to eliminate all the applicants with whom they battled Pablo Casado and Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría in 2018including María Dolores de Cospedal, who fell in the voting of the bases.

In this case, only Alberto Núñez Feijóo has presented sufficient guarantees – the PP rules set the minimum 100 valid backups– as to aspire to the presidency of the party. “With more than 55,000 endorsements, his candidacy is sufficiently supported,” defend the sources consulted, in favor of eliminating the candidate’s ballot box and leaving only the one for the election of delegates in the plebiscite led by the bases. The PP militants are called to the polls next March 21but only those who have previously registered will be able to vote, a term that ends this Wednesday, March 16 at 2:00 p.m.. Regardless of the registration, only those assigned up to date with the payment of party fees may participate in the vote.

The filter required by the PP to participate in the vote in the first round encourages, however, the demobilization of its own bases. In 2018, only 66,384 militants participated, 7.6% of the total census, so the current leadership of the party will wait until Wednesday to check the total number of registrations. If there is no “massive response” from the grassroots to give legitimacy to Feijóo’s election even though he is the only candidate, the COC will suppress the direct vote of the militancy.

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This is a first step that could culminate in the definitive elimination of the double round system and the return to the election of the president by sole and exclusive election of the delegates. The extraordinary nature of the 20th national congress of the PP, which was convened after Pablo Casado’s sudden fall from power, leaves no room for presentations, but the reform of the party’s Statutes to eliminate grassroots suffrage is a scenario that does not rule out the arrival of the current command of the party.

Photo: The president of the Xunta, Alberto Núñez Feijóo (i), and the leader of the EPP in the Eurochamber, Manfred Weber.  (EFE)
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The ‘new PP’ is aligned with Mariano Rajoy when conceiving the primaries as a focus of “problems” and internal “division”. The former Prime Minister recently acknowledged his “great mistake” when it came to implementing the ‘one militant, one vote’. “Infected by populism, I made the mistake of approving that the president of the PP be elected by primaries,” said Pablo Casado’s predecessor during the presentation of his latest book, ‘Politics for Adults’, in which he also makes a fierce criticism against the double round system in political formations. “Experience has shown that they were much more populist than improving the democratic quality of the parties,” wrote Rajoy.

The next president of the PP does not hide his intention to reform the Statutes either. “I believe in primaries through delegates, not in assembly primaries,” Feijóo acknowledged on March 6, in an interview for the newspaper ‘El Mundo’. “The militants choose the delegates, and they have the responsibility to choose the candidates,” he said. The question, therefore, is not so much if it will be done, but when it will be done. “I will take this debate to the match. It is my opinion, the result of my experience,” Feijóo promised.


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