MADRID (AFP) – Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will address parliament on a slush fund scandal rocking his conservative Popular Party on August 1, the head of the assembly said Tuesday.
Rajoy bowed to pressure from the main opposition Socialists, which had threatened a no-confidence vote if he refused to address parliament on the issue, on Monday and announced he would appear in the assembly but did not specify the date.
“The date will almost certainly be August 1, a Thursday, and we will start at 9 am,” Spain’s parliament chairman, Jesus Posada, told reporters.
The scandal first erupted in January when a newspaper published copies of account ledgers purportedly showing irregular payments to top party members including Rajoy who has led the Popular Party since 2004.
Rajoy has denied receiving illegal payments and has said he will not step down over the affair.
But pressure on Rajoy has mounted after former Popular Party treasurer Luis Barcenas was jailed last month while he is under investigation for running the slush fund and having huge secret Swiss bank accounts.
Barcenas testified in court on June 15 that Rajoy received 25,000 euros ($33,000) in cash in 2010.
Earlier this month center-right daily newspaper El Mundo published friendly text messages purportedly sent by Rajoy to Barcenas from May 2011 to March 2013, some two months after the scandal erupted.
“Luis, I understand, be strong. I will call you tomorrow. Best wishes,” said one of the messages from Rajoy to Barcenas, dated January 18 when El Mundo first published allegations over the slush fund.
Nearly nine in 10 Spaniards, 89.1 percent, feel Rajoy should explain himself in parliament over the scandal, according to a poll published Sunday in El Mundo.
The survey also found that just under two-thirds (65.6 percent) of respondents believed Rajoy had received payments, with 19.6 percent saying the opposite.