Spanish PM warns opposition lack of support could force new elections

Vulnerability of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s minority government shown over the last week

Mariano Rajoy (right) with Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro last week.
Mariano Rajoy (right) with Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro last week.Jaime Villanueva

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has warned that he is ready to do “the impossible” in order to see this political term through, but that he needs “a bit of political stability in order to do so.”

Speaking on Sunday, Rajoy’s comments came after a week that saw opposition parties in the Spanish Congress stonewall a government decree aiming to liberalize the dock workers sector, allowing companies to hire non-unionized employees. Brussels has been pressuring Spain to bring the industry in line with EU legislation, and Madrid is facing hefty fines for failing to do so.

The Socialists have promised to provide an active opposition over the course of Rajoy’s term 

But at a vote on Thursday, Rajoy’s ruling Popular Party (PP), which leads a minority government, only secured the approval of the small Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), while other congressional forces opposed the decree.

“It is necessary for episodes like the dockers to never happen again,” said Rajoy on Sunday, speaking in Málaga.

But his administration is facing further trouble from an opposition that has promised not to let Rajoy rest on his laurels after he was reinstated late last year thanks to tacit help from the Socialists. The latter have vowed to exercise active opposition throughout the term, while the PP’s only semi-reliable ally, the reform party Ciudadanos, has lately taken a step back due to disagreements over anti-corruption policy.

Rajoy’s team has already accepted the fact that it will have to push its budget plan through without Socialist support. The Cabinet will greenlight it on March 31, after which it is expected to undergo a long parliamentary process before being passed sometime in late June, according to the executive’s own estimates.

But there will be up to 13 key votes between now and then, not to mention that the Socialists will be holding primaries and a congress to elect a new party leader following the debacle of last October, when then-secretary general Pedro Sánchez walked out in protest over the party’s decision to help Rajoy back into office in order to avoid a third national election.

English version by Susana Urra.

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