Mariano Rajoy with deputy prime minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría in Congress yesterday. | Reuters


A hastily convened meeting of the federal executive of PSOE will this morning consider the raising of a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. This follows sentences announced yesterday by the Audiencia Nacional high court in Madrid in respect of the "caso Gürtel", an investigation that originated in late 2007 and which has now led to the Partido Popular becoming the first political party to be found guilty of corruption.

Gürtel has centred on investigation of the main accused, Francisco Correa (Gürtel is German for correa, meaning belt in English), and links to illicit party funding and the awarding of public sector contracts. Correa has been sentenced to 51 years and three months, while a former treasurer of the PP, Luis Bárcenas, has been given a sentence of 33 years and four months plus a fine of 44 million euros.

Bárcenas has been at the centre of the PP's "B accounts" affair, which found its way into the Gürtel case. The court has determined that the B accounts were a "financial structure parallel to official accounts from at least 1989". The income and spending from these accounts were for the party and for people "relevant to the party".

The PP has been fined 245,000 euros for having been a beneficiary from Gürtel, while the court has drawn into question the credibility of Rajoy's witness statements in connection with the Bárcenas "papers" (ledgers from the B accounts). Rajoy and other witnesses, in the court's estimation, did not refute "the overwhelming evidence with regard to the existence of the B accounts".

Pedro Sánchez, the general secretary of PSOE, says that he will look for a vote of no confidence in Rajoy. Pablo Iglesias of Podemos has indicated that his party would back this.

Under the Constitution, a majority is needed for a vote of no confidence to be passed. In Congress, this means 176 votes in favour; there are 350 seats in Congress. If the vote is successful, the prime minister and government are obliged to resign.