Standoff between Spanish government and Congress intensifies

Second minister refuses to address house committee; opposition schedules a question time certain to be ignored

Acting Public Works Minister Ana Pastor refused to show up before a house committee.
Acting Public Works Minister Ana Pastor refused to show up before a house committee.EFE

The unprecedented conflict between the acting government of Spain and Congress took a turn for the worse on Tuesday.

For the second time in under a month, an acting minister – on this occasion Ana Pastor, in charge of public works – refused to appear before a congressional committee to explain recent actions.

Meanwhile, all parties save for the ruling Popular Party (PP) agreed to hold a question time during the plenary session of April 20 to keep tabs on the prime minister and his Cabinet.

If, as expected, the executive refuses to take questions from the legislature, it will create a previously unseen situation in Spanish parliament.

The opposition has vowed to take the issue to the Constitutional Court

The caretaker government considers that it does not have to submit to oversight from the legislature that emerged from the December 20 election, since that is not the same body that named Mariano Rajoy prime minister following his previous election victory in November 2011.

The fragmented scenario that emerged from the latest election has meant that no one party has enough seats for an overall majority. Although the PP secured the largest presence with 123 deputies, it has utterly failed to attract backing from other parties in order to form a government.

Meanwhile, the runner-up Socialists (90 seats) are struggling to drum up support for an alternative coalition with other forces in parliament, including the emerging Podemos and Ciudadanos.

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If no governing deal is struck before May 2, parliament will be dissolved and fresh elections called for June 26, a situation that everyone save the PP wants to avoid.

Two weeks ago, acting defense minister Pedro Morenés refused to take questions from the Defense Committee. A state secretary has since followed his lead, even though technically only the prime minister and his ministers are serving in an acting capacity.

The opposition has vowed to take the issue to the Constitutional Court, claiming that the caretaker government is preventing the lower house from doing its job properly by denying its right – and obligation – to control the executive’s actions.

English version by Susana Urra.

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