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Spain’s opposition party pledges change after Catalan poll

FILE - In this April 26, 2019 file photo, people walk past a banner featuring a portrait of Popular Party's election candidate Pablo Casado on the front of the Party's headquarters in Madrid, Spain. Spain's main conservative opposition Popular Party has taken its poor results in the February 2021 Catalan regional elections as a signal to make changes, starting with a decision to quit the party's long-time central Madrid headquarters in a symbolic break with past corruption cases. (AP Photo/Andrea Comas, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

MADRID – Poor results in Catalan regional elections over the weekend has spurred Spain’s main conservative opposition Popular Party to revamp itself, starting with a decision to quit the party’s long-time central Madrid headquarters in a symbolic break with past corruption cases.

Party leader Pablo Casado promised supporters on Tuesday to hold a party convention later in the year to promote renewal and set up a transparency department to help clean up the party’s image.

He was speaking after the party registered its worst result in Sunday's Catalan regional elections, winning just three seats in the 135-seat Barcelona-based parliament. The party also found itself being overtaken by the far-right Vox group, which has made substantial inroads into the Popular Party’s support in recent years.

“We want those (voters) that have left to come back,” said Casado.

Casado blamed the poor result mostly on the effects a ongoing trial in the National Court in which a jailed former party treasurer and four others are accused of using a slush fund to pay for renovations at the party’s emblematic headquarters in downtown Madrid, which the party has occupied since 1983.

“We shouldn’t continue in a building whose renovations are being investigated in court,” he said.

Casado said the party would as of now refrain from offering explanations for the past actions of people who are no longer party members.

“The electoral cost has been tremendous,” said Casado. “We have to stop worrying about our past and concern ourselves with the future that we propose to Spaniards.”

The slush-fund case is the latest in a judicial saga that began when allegations of the party’s long-time shadowy accounting first emerged in 2013.

The party has been a dominant force in Spain over the past four decades. That began to change in 2018 when former party chief Mariano Rajoy was ousted as prime minister in a no-confidence vote after a court ruled that the party had benefited from a kickback scheme.