SPANISH POLITICS

Socialists’ no to acting PM Rajoy opens door to third elections at Christmas

As expected, the Popular Party candidate lost the first round of the investiture vote

Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday in Congress.
Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday in Congress.PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

As expected, Spanish acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy failed to secure enough congressional support to get himself reinstated at a confidence vote held on Wednesday evening.

Rajoy earned 170 favorable votes from his own Popular Party (PP), the emerging center-right group Ciudadanos and the small Canaries Coalition, falling six short of the 176 he needed for an overall majority.

Rajoy was unable to convince the Socialists that they should allow him to form a government and take Spain out of an eight-month-long political deadlock

The 85 Socialist Party (PSOE) deputies all voted no, honoring their leader Pedro Sánchez’s pledge not to support “that which we want to change.”

Rajoy was unable to convince the Socialists that they should allow him to form a government and take Spain out of an eight-month-long political deadlock that began after the original inconclusive election of December 20. A second election held on June 26 has failed to improve matters in any significant way.

The conservative candidate gets a second try on Friday, when all that he will need is a simple majority of more affirmative than negative votes. At this point, 11 abstentions would deliver the post to Rajoy. But so far Sánchez seems disinclined to grant them, and has yet to present an alternative that his party would support. If Spain is forced to hold a third general election, the strict timetables set out by current legislation would see them held on Christmas Day.

Consistent opposition to Rajoy

Throughout Wednesday’s debate, which preceded the investiture vote in the evening, other opposition leaders took turns replying to Rajoy’s opening remarks, and their messages clearly presaged that no new prime minister would be coming out of that day’s poll.

Pablo Iglesias, the head of the anti-austerity Podemos party, was the most vocal in his criticism of the caretaker government.

“It’s a lie that you’re going to fight corruption, because you people are corruption,” he told Rajoy. “Nobody doubts that we will always be standing on the other side, that we are your antagonists. I am proud of that, Mr Rajoy.”

Iglesias also thanked Pedro Sánchez for refusing to support a PP government despite mounting pressure from all sides.

It’s a lie that you’re going to fight corruption, because you people are corruption Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias to Rajoy

“I understand it cannot have been easy, and I thank you for it,” he told the Socialist candidate, while encouraging him to seek an alternative governing deal with Podemos. “Despite our enormous differences, the injuries and the mutual mistrust, I think that the political and electoral reality must push us to seek an agreement.”

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera, who has alternately reached governing deals with both the Socialists and the PP in these past eight months, sought to come across as a uniting force rather than a divider, underscoring that Spain urgently needs a new executive.

Rivera, who has been criticized for his recent pact with Rajoy, stressed that he considers this the lesser of two evils and that he would have much preferred to deal with a different PP candidate. He described Rajoy as a “plan B.”

Regional party representatives were even less enthusiastic about the conservative candidate in their own replies

“In life you have to choose between the bad and the less bad,” he said, alluding to the fact that he would have preferred to see a national coalition between the PP and PSOE.

Regional party representatives were even less enthusiastic about the conservative candidate in their own replies. Joan Tardá, of the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left (ERC), uttered some of the harshest words heard on Wednesday against the Rajoy administration.

“In Spain, rather than a separation of powers, there is a distribution of powers,” he said, accusing the PP government of “a manifest desire to mistreat Catalan citizens” and claiming that soon there will be “Catalan political prisoners.”

Then he told Rajoy that he is a political reactionary. “And don’t get offended by it.”

Tardá instead offered Socialist leader Sánchez his support for an alternative leftist government – in exchange for an independence referendum in Catalonia.

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