A leadership crisis in Spain's conservative People's Party (PP) escalated further on Tuesday when two leading members of the opposition party handed in their resignation, including secretary-general Teodoro García Egea.
This came after the resignation of José Luis Martínez Almeida, Madrid's mayor and an influential party spokesman, and as PP provincial leaders demanded "urgent solutions" from party leader Pablo Casado and the immediate convening of an extraordinary party congress.
At the heart of the infighting is a weeks-long public spat between Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the popular president of the Madrid region, and Casado. She has broken of ties with the party leader and accused him of backing a campaign to discredit her.
Almeida is not directly involved in the dispute between Casado and Ayuso. His resignation, like others before him, is seen as a protest.
García Egea, however, is thought to have stepped down as a "pawn" to take Casado out of the firing line, as state broadcaster RTVE and other media reported, citing PP sources.
García Egea was considered Casado's right-hand man.
Rallies in Madrid
Thousands have demanded Casado's resignation at rallies in the capital.
The PP leader, who has repeatedly criticized Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, has long been controversial within his own party. Since he took to the helm of the PP in 2018, the party has achieved some of the worst election results in its history.
The stand-off was prompted by reports that the PP launched a probe in 2021 into whether Díaz Ayuso’s administration had acted illegally in awarding a €1.5-million contract to an acquaintance of her brother to provide face masks during the pandemic.
Ayuso claimed the deal was above board. Nevertheless, the anti-corruption authority launched an investigation on Tuesday.
Ayuso has accused the party leadership under Casado of "fabricating" the corruption allegations in a bid to "destroy" her. She claimed that he wanted to prevent her from climbing the party ranks in the capital.
Some observers have said that Ayuso could even have plans to replace Casado as PP leader. Ayuso, however, has denied such ambitions.
At this time, the name that most sounds like a possible successor to Pablo Casado at the head of the PP is that of the president of the region of Galicia Alberto Nunez Feijoo.