Pablo Casado, leader of Spain's largest opposition party, the conservative People's Party (Partido Popular, PP), has resigned amid a crisis in the party and will not campaign in the forthcoming leadership contest, PP officials said in Madrid on Thursday.
The decision came at a meeting Casado had with regional party leaders that ended in the early hours of Thursday morning. Casado is now to call a special party conference likely to be held on April 2 and 3 to choose his successor.
Last week, Ayuso accused Casado of "fabricating" allegations of corruption with a view to undermining her position in the right-wing party. The ensuing mudslinging led a number of leading PP members to resign.
Ayuso accuses Casado of attempting to block her from campaigning to lead the PP in the capital. Spain's political analysts suspect she seeks to lead the PP at a national level as well, an ambition Ayuso has denied.
A new leadership
The favourite to succeed Casado as national PP head is Alberto Nuñez Feijóo, a political veteran who serves as president of the regional government of Galicia.
According to media reports, Ayuso suspects the PP leadership of spying on people around her. The allegation relates in particular to a commission received by her brother for his role in negotiating a deal worth €1.5 million ($1.7 million) for Madrid to buy masks during the first wave of the pandemic.
While Ayuso has insisted that the deal was completely legal, anti-corruption official launched an investigation into the claims on Tuesday.
Casado has been controversial within the PP for some time. After taking over in 2018, he led the party to a severe defeat in the April 2019 elections.