Losing the sparkle - Prime minister of the Spanish state Mariano Rajoy is under pressure (Pic: European People's Party)
The right wing government of prime minister Mariano Rajoy in the Spanish state could be on the verge of collapse.
Its fall would raise new questions about the future of Catalonia and would cause further panic in the European Union.
The day before a key no confidence vote, the Basque Nationalist party (PNV) revealed it had decided to back the motion proposed by the opposition socialist party, PSOE. This would provide the handful votes required to remove Rajoy and replace him with the PSOE leader, Pedro Sánchez.
Dozens of people with links to Rajoy's ruling PP party, including a former treasurer, were convicted of a range of crimes relating to the use of an illegal slush fund. This was used to finance party election campaigns between 1999 and 2005.
Judges issued prison sentences totalling 351 years and the PP was ordered to repay more than £200,000, the amount it received from the scheme. The judge said testimony from Rajoy and other party officials who said they knew nothing was “not credible”.
The Labour-type PSOE then tabled a vote of non-confidence in Rajoy.
The vote was set to take place on 1 June.
The right wing Ciudadanos (Citizens) party says it won’t support the Socialists motion but will call its own non confidence vote unless Rajoy calls a general election.
There is plenty of anger at Rajoy. Not only has he savaged the Catalonian attempt to win independence, he has also attacked workers.
Unemployment is down from its peak of 26 percent in 2013, but is still close to 20 percent.
More than one in three young people are unemployed. Almost half the workforce earns less than £200 a week.
Rajoy survives partly because the Socialists have been so ineffective in their opposition.
The PP does not have a majority in parliament. Rajoy was only able to form a government because after a deep party crisis the large majority of Socialist MPs abstained rather than face another general election which they feared would lead to catastrophic losses.
But it's not just Rajoy who has faced trouble. The radical Podemos party was also plunged into crisis recently.
Pablo Iglesias, the party’s leader, bought a villa outside Madrid worth over £500,000. This is more than three times the price of the average house in Spain.
Many Podemos members saw this as a break from party values.
“Podemos’s ethics code is not a formality,” said José María González, the Podemos mayor of Cadiz.
“It is a commitment to living like working people so that you can represent them.
In 2012 Iglesias criticised then economy minister Luis de Guindos for buying a flat for a similar price.
“Would you hand the country’s economic policy to someone who spends €600,000 on a luxury penthouse?” he tweeted.
Iglesias received the support of figures such as Greece's former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and France's Jean-Luc Melenchon.
Varoufakis, said it was "quaint if not ridiculous" to think that those who fight against inequality "must live in slums".
Iglesias and his partner Irene Montero submitted themselves to a confidence vote by the party’s membership in an attempt to resolve the row.
Iglesias and Montero survived, securing 68 percent of votes cast. But the fact a third of members wanted them to go is significant.
The issue tapped into a broader feeling that Podemos has become just another party, not qualitatively different from other mainstream forces and increasingly adapting to the traditional, and corrupt, way of working.
It will be very welcome if Rajoy goes, but there will need to be real struggle to win major change.