Ciudadanos gives PM 48 hours to agree investiture vote conditions

“Time is running out” for Rajoy’s Popular Party, says emerging center-right group

Ciudadanos and PP negotiators on Thursday.
Ciudadanos and PP negotiators on Thursday.CARLOS ROSILLO

With just four days to go before Spain’s interim Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy appears before Congress to persuade it to support him in forming a government, Ciudadanos, the only party openly prepared to support him, has issued Rajoy’s Popular Party with a 48-hour ultimatum to conclude negotiations begun this week and reach agreement.

“We want to say yes to Mariano Rajoy, but he needs to give us reasons for doing so,” said Juan Carlos Girauta, the emerging center-right party’s spokesman on Thursday, adding that “time was running out”.

The discussions are taking place after the PP agreed to a six-point plan laid out by Ciudadanos as a condition to them lending their support for Rajoy in the investiture debate.

The Socialist Party is already assuming Rajoy will fail to garner enough support in Congress at a first vote on August 31

The PP won the most votes at the two recent inconclusive general elections (in December and June), but fell well short of the majority needed to form a government. As things stand, even with the support of Ciudadanos, Rajoy will not win the first investiture vote next week, at which an absolute majority of 176 seats is needed. Securing abstentions in the second round would allow him to win thanks to a simple majority of yes votes.

But four days into talks between Ciudadanos and the PP, there is still little sign of a formal agreement. On Thursday, the PP called for “calm”, saying that there were up to one hundred measures it was about to “agree on a definitive wording”.

Girauta accused the PP of failing to meet Ciudadanos’ demands regarding social policy, or to present Senate reforms, changes to the judicial system or streamlining country’s many layers of government.

Rivera’s party is demanding specifics when it comes to their social spending action plan, which includes measures such as a supplement for those on low salaries, a plan to combat child poverty, increased paternity and maternity leave, and greater education for children under the age of three.

As things stand, even with the support of Ciudadanos, Rajoy will not win the first investiture vote next week

“We still don’t have any numbers and no institutional reforms. This forces us to give the talks a further 48 hours. If in that time we haven’t signed this agreement, then sadly, we’re not going to be able to give our support,” he said.

Speaking later on Thursday, Fernando Martínez-Maillo, the PP’s organizational deputy secretary, said he was not aware of Ciudadanos’ ultimatum. He pointed out that the two parties were not “negotiating a government, but an investiture pact,” and advised Ciudadanos to be patient. “This is just the normal push and shove of all negotiations,” he added.

Meanwhile, Spain’s Socialist Party (PSOE) insists it will not review its decision not to support Rajoy in the investiture debate, opting instead to wait until October, after two key regional elections in Galicia and the Basque Country, when its federal committee will meet.

Over the course of the year, Rajoy has sought to pressure Sánchez, accusing the PSOE of responsibility for the ongoing political impasse. But Sánchez’s hands are tied: the decision not to support Rajoy’s investiture was taken by the Socialist Party’s federal committee earlier this summer.

The Socialist Party is already assuming that Rajoy will fail to garner enough support in Congress at a first vote on August 31. In which case Rajoy could either try again in October, depending on the results of the regional elections, or Spaniards will again go to the polls, which the current electoral timetable would schedule for December 25.

In a bid to avoid this extraordinary turn of events, which would be unprecedented in Spain’s democratic history, the Socialists are planning to table a reform that would halve the duration of the election campaign, bringing polling day forward.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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