By CIARAN GILES
MADRID (AP) â¿¿ Pressure piled up Tuesday on Spanish conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, with opposition parties demanding he appear before Parliament to explain how a former governing party treasurer amassed â¿¬22 million ($29 million) in a Swiss bank account.
It is the latest in a line of alleged corruption scandals to rock the recession-hit country. Although no arrests have been made or charges filed, the scandal is hitting Rajoy, who is demanding great sacrifices of Spaniards as the country battles to emerge from recession with 25 percent unemployment.
The governing Popular Party's absolute majority allowed it to vote down a proposal by the Socialist opposition party and other groups for Rajoy to make a special appearance to discuss the case. But it was agreed that Rajoy should answer queries on the issue in Parliament's weekly questioning session Jan. 30.In the year since taking office, his government has ushered in major labor market and financial reforms, as well as cutting pension increases and civil servant wages and raising taxes. The attempt to convince European Union authorities and investors it is serious about reducing its swollen deficit and won't need a bailout has caused widespread pain among the public. "It's very difficult to sell austerity when there is suspicion you are being robbed," said Jose Antonio Olmeda, Political Science professor at Spain's Open University. "It's a blow to his political management and weakens his authority, but he is obliged to do what Europe wants him to do." Opinion polls show Spaniards have little faith in their political parties while some 300 politicians are reported to be implicated in corruption cases across the country. "The political situation is terrible," said courier Jose Manuel Hoyos, 49. "Cases are coming out every day. Meanwhile, we pay for the party with tax hikes and cutbacks."