Socialists suspend former minister Ábalos after refusing to resign as MP

Ábalos' former aide arrested for alleged corruption in purchase of face masks during pandemic

José Luis Ábalos in 2021
José Luis Ábalos in 2021 / PSOE

ACN | @agenciaacn | Barcelona

February 27, 2024 03:07 PM

February 27, 2024 04:15 PM

The Socialists have temporarily suspended former minister José Luis Ábalos from the party after he refused to resign as an MP.

The decision is based on his violation of party statutes, the Socialists said, specifically for not adhering to party decisions, considered a serious offense.

Ábalos announced on Wednesday that he would not step down as MP after he was given 24 hours to resign over his involvement in the 'Koldo case' on Monday. 

“I am not being investigated or prosecuted,” said Ábalos, adding: “I don’t even have to invoke the presumption of innocence.” 

Ábalos will now serve as an independent member of the mixed group in the Spanish Congress.

"I have decided to listen to those who truly care about me and urge me to move forward, not give up, and defend my integrity. I cannot end my political career labeled as corrupt when I am innocent," he said.

With a slim majority, the Socialists will have to negotiate with him to secure his support for future legislative approvals.

Why is Ábalos under pressure to resign?

Last week, Ábalos' former aide Koldo Garcia was arrested in an investigation into alleged corruption in the purchase of face masks during the pandemic.

Although Ábalos is not under investigation and his name is not in the investigation, the Socialists consider there is "political responsibility" and urged the minister to resign "immediately."  

"This party has almost 150 years of history and corruption has no place here," said Socialist spokesperson Esther Pesa.

Ábalos, however, said his role in the case was to "get the protective equipment as quickly and as cheaply as possible" and to "reduce costs and possible commissions from middlemen."

He also said he tried to "protect public funds" by freezing payments to suppliers until the goods were received, a move that "did not occur in other contracts."

The Socialists announced on Monday that they would create an inquiry commission in Congress to probe the purchase of health supplies during the pandemic.