With Casado, Spain’s People’s Party Turns Right

Pablo Casado’s victory signals a desire for a more right-wing program.

Pablo Casado has won the leadership of Spain’s conservative People’s Party with 57 to 42 percent support from party delegates.

Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, the former deputy prime minister, was considered the establishment favorite. Her defeat signals a desire for a more right-wing program. Casado’s economic policy is more liberal and he takes a hard line against the Catalan independence movement.

Time for a change

Sáenz de Santamaría had appealed to delegates in Madrid to pick the more experienced candidate, but with the right recently ousted from power and down in the polls, members clearly felt it was time for a change.

The outgoing People’s Party leader, Mariano Rajoy, was removed in a confidence vote last month.

Polls put the now-ruling Socialists in first place with 25-27 percent support. The People’s Party shares second place with the liberal Citizens. Both are at 20 to 25 percent.

The Citizens topped the polls earlier this year. They, too, take a hard line against the separatist movement in their home region.

Despite Rajoy’s suspension of Catalonia’s autonomy in 2017, carried out by Sáenz de Santamaría, many right-wing voters felt he didn’t go far enough.

The Socialists, led by Pedro Sánchez, have taken a more conciliatory approach, including raising the possibility of constitutional reform.

Casado’s policies

  • Reject dialogue with Catalonia’s ruling separatists.
  • Outlaw pro-independence parties altogether.
  • Introduce runoffs or a seats bonus for the largest party.
  • Lower taxes and abolish double taxation.
  • Keep euthanasia illegal.
  • Restrict abortion rights.
  • Support the traditional family.


  • El Mundo, which previously sided with Sáenz de Santamaría, now hails Casado’s victory as a chance for the conservatives to bury Rajoy’s legacy and start over.
  • Rubén Amón argues in El País that Casado’s election repudiates the center-right managerialism of Rajoy and Sáenz de Santamaría and turns the People’s Party into a more liberal (in the economic sense), Catholic and patriotic party.
  • Leonardo Carella argues that the more right-wing Casado may take the wind out of the far right’s sails, but he could also put conservative issues — Franco’s legacy, Catalan separatism, euthanasia — on the agenda, on which the far right might capitalize.