Spain’s election campaign to launch amid accusations of ‘Watergate’-style espionage
Posted On July 10, 2020
Campaigning for Spain’s general election opens on Friday amid accusations of political espionage described as the country’s ‘Watergate’.
Last month Spain’s judiciary launched a probe into an alleged conspiracy by secret police and the former conservative government led by Mariano Rajoy to smear the reputation of the left-wing Podemos party founded in 2014.
On April 1 Spain’s Socialist administration claimed to have deactivated the so-called “patriotic brigade” of senior police officers.
“The sewers no longer exist,” said Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska.
But Podemos’s leader Pablo Iglesias has since claimed the dirty tricks campaign against his party did not end when the more ideologically-aligned Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez came to power last June.
Last weekend Mr Sánchez’s deputy press officer, Alberto Pozas, was summoned by a judge in connection with the theft of data from a mobile phone belonging to Mr Iglesias’s former aide.
The phone was stolen in November 2015, weeks before the first general election in which Podemos took part, when Mr Pozas was editor of a now-defunct sensationalist news weekly called Interviú.
Investigators found data from the mobile phone among the files of former police officer José Manuel Villarejo, jailed since 2017 while a court probes his role as alleged leading member of the “patriotic brigade”.
Among a series of accusations against Mr Villarejo, the former police commissioner is believed to have staged a phony police probe into alleged financing for Podemos from the Iranian and Venezuelan governments.
“There was an operation against Podemos to ensure we would not enter government,” Mr Iglesias told the media after giving evidence to the judge investigating Mr Villarejo’s alleged crimes, including alleged blackmail and spying on members of government.
The interior ministry has also admitted that a security camera set up by the police outside Mr Iglesias’s residence last year was hacked and its images livestreamed on the internet.
Despite their rivalry, the Socialist party and Podemos are hoping to reach a shared majority in the April 28 election, although opinion polls suggest that Mr Sánchez would again need support from some or all of the Catalan and Basque pro-independence forces.
A major survey by Spain’s CIS state sociological agency this week said the Socialist party is on course for victory with 30 per cent of the vote, followed by the conservative Popular Party (PP) on 17 per cent.
The liberal Ciudadanos, predicted to come third on 14 per cent, has said it will not support a socialist government with Mr Sánchez as leader, meaning that the PP could try to negotiate a three-way coalition of right-of-centre forces including Vox, as occurred after the far-Right’s surprisingly strong showing in Andalusia’s election last December.
Vox, forecast to win 12 per cent and gaining ground, is to open its campaign at the site of the first defeat of a Muslim army on Iberian soil, Covadonga.
Party leader Santiago Abascal has stated his desire to fight Islamist influence in Spain by controlling immigration, saying “Spain must not go the way of France where 50 per cent of the population will be Muslim by 2050”.