Government and PP gain little support for deficit cap in Congress

Only conservative Navarrese party joins big two groupings in support of constitutional reform proposal

Lawmakers in Congress on Tuesday voted to hold debates on the controversial constitutional reform aimed at placing a cap on public spending. The measure was approved with 318 votes in favor and 16 against, with two abstentions. All of the minority parties voted against the planned modification of Article 135 with only the conservative Navarre People's Union (UPN) siding with the Socialists and the major opposition Popular Party (PP).

Under the proposed plan, the Constitution will contain a broad agreement to dictate that future governments must follow a balanced budget. No precise spending cap will be included but the Socialists and PP have also agreed to introduce legislation next June to set the long-term annual public deficit at 0.4 percent of GDP from 2020.

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The ruling Socialists and main opposition PP set aside their long-term differences to come up with the reform before the November 20 general elections. But the unions and regional leaders are opposed to changing the Constitution without a referendum, as well as imposing legal caps, saying, among other things, it would affect social spending in the future.

"We are substituting the sovereignty of citizens with the sovereignty of the markets," Gaspar Llamazares, parliamentary spokesman for the United Left (IU) coalition, complained to lawmakers.

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