José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero declares today before the 11-M investigation commission in what will be the first ever appearance of a Spanish president before a parliamentary investigation.
Yesterday Zapatero told reporters that he will use the 45 minutes granted to him before questions start to explain in detail the state of the police investigations into the terrorist attack and the lessons that have been learned so far from the tragedy. He will also outline what measures his government proposes to take to help prevent an attack of this nature from ever happening again. The Spanish president stressed that he would not use his intervention to point his finger at anyone, because that would undermine the core objective of the commission which is to see how security can be improved.
The relatives of victims killed or injured in the terrorist attack will be able to listen to the president’s declarations from the comfort of a special room in the Congress building.
When Aznar appeared before the commission two weeks ago, victims families who had organised a small demostration on the steps of congress were insulted by some PP supporters who had organised their own demostration in support of Aznar.
Tension is expected to be at its highest when the Popular Party spokesman puts his party’s questions to Zapatero. PP leaders have already suggested that they will ask Zapatero what role, if any, the Socialist party had in the demostration which was held on the day before election day outside the PP headquarters when thousands of Spaniards took to the streets demanding to know the truth from their government (it was not until Saturday night that the then Interior Minister said that it was possible that the terrorist act had been carried out by Islamic extremists.
Until then he, Aznar and the rest of his government had insisted that the main line of investigation was ETA).
The day before elections in Spain is called “reflection day” and all political activity (rallies, demonstrations, meetings, interviews, party political broadcasts…) is forbidden. The Socialist party has always denied any role in the demostration held outside PP headquarters on 13th March, and the demonstrators themselves (who in theory could all have been arrested for participating that day in a demo), some of whom were well-known actors and singers, have always said that it was a spontaneous demostration, and people sent text messages to friends telling them to attend. PP party members have always insinuated that their political opponents were behind the demo, even though the Socialists never once criticised the government’s handling of the crisis during the 3 days between the terrorist attack and elections, and like all parties, they cancelled all their political meetings out of respect for the victims.
It will be interesting to see how Zapatero deals with the questions posed by Eduardo Zaplana, PP spokesman, because the political style of both men is so different. Zaplana is much more agressive and tends to enjoy situations charged with tension. It will also be interesting to see whether anything useful will come out of the declarations of the Spanish president today, although it probably won’t. The investigation commission will probably once again be scene to the sight of Spain’s two major parties trying to score points and impress public opinion, while the smaller parties look on and take turns to ask the same questions again and again just as they did when Aznar appeared a fortnight ago.
The political atmosphere in Spain is so tense at the moment, that it is almost impossible for PSOE and PP party members to debate issues without resorting to mutual insults, derision and accusations. There is no reason to expect today to be any exception.