Socialist and PP senators reject all constitutional reform amendments

Public deficit rule to be approved by upper house on Wednesday, despite objections from minority parties and more popular protests

A constitutional reform encoding the principle of budgetary stability is set for approval by the Senateon Wednesdayin the same climate of disunity that marked its passage through Congress last Friday.

In a meeting of the Senate's constitutional committee on Tuesday, the main parties voted down all amendments to the reform put forward by the smaller groups, including one asking for a popular referendum before undertaking any changes to the 1978 Constitution.

The move to include a deficit ceiling in the Magna Carta is a joint initiative of the ruling Socialists and the main opposition Popular Party (PP), which used a fast-track procedure. It was a rare example of cooperation between political rivals that did not extend to minority parties, which are angry at being left out of the decision-making process.

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"This is not a whim, it is a necessity," said the Socialist José Ignacio Pérez Sáenz, who nevertheless admitted that "the procedure was not the best."

"Introducing the principle of budgetary stability in the Constitution is an exercise in responsibility," added Elvira Rodríguez of the PP. "It is the only guarantee that our children and grandchildren will have the same things we had ourselves."

But other groups were critical. "We share the principle of budgetary stability, but have serious doubts it will be achieved via the Constitution. Why the rush? Changing the Constitution requires calm and consensus. It's unheard of for it to be done in four days," said Ramón Arturo, of the CiU Catalan nationalist bloc.

Meanwhile, popular protests against the reform took the form of nationwide demonstrations that began in Barcelona, where marchers chanted "negotiate less, fight more." Other marches were taking place in Madrid, Valencia, the Basque Country and other regions.

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