Spain opposition fires Madrid chief in election year
Spain's opposition Socialist Party fired its Madrid leader on Wednesday after he was tainted by corruption allegations as it fends off a challenge from protest party Podemos ahead of elections this year.
The sacking of Tomas Gomez was the most dramatic sign yet of divisions in the Spanish left as the country prepares for local and regional polls in the coming months and a general election in November.
"The federal party leadership has approved a resolution to suspend from their posts the leadership of the party in Madrid," said the party's deputy leader Cesar Luena.
The suspended leaders were led by Gomez, who had been the party's regional election candidate for Madrid.
"These matters harm the PSOE and... have caused a serious deterioration in its public image, as well as instability" in the party, Luena added.
Gomez rejected the decision as "a great mistake", saying at first he had taken it for a "joke".
He warned at a news conference it would have "disastrous consequences for all the imminent elections which the Socialist party faces".
Gomez has been implicated in a probe of overspending on a tramway project in the Parla district of Madrid where he was formerly mayor. He denies any wrongdoing and has not yet been formally charged.
Some of his associates have also been linked to a broader investigation implicating businessmen and senior politicians on left and right, into alleged corruption linked to public contracts worth 250 million euros ($283 million).
The Socialists have for decades dominated Spanish politics alongside their conservative rivals of the currently governing Popular Party.
But Podemos has overtaken the Socialists in some recent opinion polls, campaigning with promises to defeat what it brands a corrupt political elite.
Six years of economic turbulence that have left the unemployment rate close to 24 percent and a string of corruption scandals have raised public anger at the political class, with some cases even involving members of the royal family.
One of Spain's smaller political groupings, the United Left, is also in crisis. Its regional Madrid leader Tania Sanchez quit the party last week after other members rejected an alliance with Podemos.
© 2015 AFP