Congress passes constitutional reform on deficit in historic vote

Various parties storm out of chamber in protest before vote begins

In an historic moment, Congress on Friday approved Spain's second constitutional reform since 1978, on the back of a no less historical agreement between the ruling Socialists (PSOE) and the opposition Popular Party (PP).

The amendment, which was rammed through the lower house in a fast-track procedure, encodes the principle of budgetary stability into the Magna Carta in a bid to reassure international investors that Spain is serious about getting its deficit back on track.

But despite the 316 votes in favor of the new article and just five against (212 were necessary for approval), the moment was marked by widespread discontent from minority parties that felt left out of the decision-making process.

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The small nationalist and green groups ERC, BNG, ICV and Nafarroa Bai walked out of the chamber in protest before the vote began. The larger Basque Nationalist Party and Catalan nationalists of CiU stayed put but did not vote. Meanwhile, the leftist coalition Izquierda Unida (IU) stayed only long enough to veto special amendments being offered to CiU in exchange for its support.

IU leader Gaspar Llamazares ? who stayed behind for the veto although he previously said he would be walking out ? provided the most dramatic assessment of the session. "I left in spirit with my colleagues, and left my body behind to veto the transactions by PP, PSOE and CIU as their just deserts," he said through the social network Twitter.

"We have been conveniently humiliated," Llamazares said about the way the main parties left them out of the loop. "Now we need to be in the chamber; later we have to denounce and appeal this 'PPSOE' coup before the Constitutional Court. And in the afternoon, we must march in protest."

They are not the only ones to do so. Thousands of citizens took to the streets of Madrid and Barcelona on Sunday to demand a popular referendum on such a momentous issue as constitutional reform, a move which, while more habitual in other European countries, only happened once before in Spain in order to adapt the country's legislation to the EU legal framework.

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