Ciudadanos rules out talks with far-right party Vox to form governments

The center-right group’s executive committee wants to avoid a repeat of the situation in Andalusia, and says it is open to “exceptional” deals with the Socialist Party

Ciudadanos general secretary José Manuel Villegas in a file photo.
Ciudadanos general secretary José Manuel Villegas in a file photo.Victor J Blanco (GTRES)

The center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) party announced on Monday that it was ruling out any negotiations with far-right party Vox to form governments. The decision was taken by the party’s executive committee today, and will mean that the group will try to do deals firstly with the conservative Popular Party (PP), and “exceptionally,” with the Socialist Party (PSOE).

“There will be no three-way talks,” said José Manuel Villegas, the party’s general secretary, during a press conference on Monday after the meeting, at which the more progressive wing of the party called for the chance of deals with the Socialists to remain on the table and for there to be limits laid down for the far right.

There will be no three-way talks

Ciudadanos general secretary José Manuel Villegas

After the inconclusive regional elections in Andalusia last December, a government was eventually formed by the PP and Ciudadanos, with the support of the votes from Vox (see sidebar). Thanks to more polls with no clear winners, a similar scenario has since been replicated all over Spain, with not only a general election on April 28 that saw the PSOE win but without a majority, but also at many of the May 26 regional and municipal polls. Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera had vowed not to support Pedro Sánchez’s bid to be voted back in as prime minister at an investiture vote, but it appears that the party’s position is softening with regard to doing deals with the PSOE elsewhere in Spain.

The social-liberal wing of the executive committee on Monday expressed its reticence to repeat the deal that was done in Andalusia in other parts of Spain. Such an agreement would be necessary in regions such as Madrid, Murcia and Aragón. In Castilla y León, the PP and Ciudadanos have enough seats to form a government between them.

The strategy is aimed at forcing Vox into accepting deals that the party negotiates with the PP – if the far-right group refuses, the left would be able to take power

The more centrist wing of the Ciudadanos executive committee, meanwhile, is calling for deals to be done with the PSOE. Despite their insistence, however, the party’s position has not moved significantly. The “preferential partner” for the party – which began in Catalonia as a reaction to the pro-independence movement, but soon became a national group – will still be the PP, Villegas explained, and only “where deals can’t be reached with the PP will exceptional attempts to make agreements with the PSOE.”

The party leadership also agreed today that they would “not negotiate three-way governments with Vox or Podemos,” the latter a left-wing, anti-austerity party. The strategy is aimed at forcing Vox into accepting deals that the party negotiates with the PP – if the far-right group refuses, the left would be able to take power.

Villegas added on Monday that Ciudadanos would not refuse to appear in a photo with representatives of Vox, but only at a meeting where they would be presented with the agreements reached with the PP, and not as part of a negotiation.

Vox to block budget in Andalusia

EVA SAÍZ, Seville

Far-right political party Vox announced on Monday that it will not lend its support in the Andalusian regional parliament to the budget plan of the new government, which is made up of the Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos (Citizens). The latter two groups need the votes from Vox if they are to pass legislation, but the ultra-nationalist party is withholding support on the regional accounts on the basis that they are a "mere exercise in continuing what was already there."

Speaking on Monday, the Vox spokesperson in the Andalusian regional parliament, Alejandro Hernández, said that the budget "could have perfectly well been presented by a Socialist government." Vox is planning to present an amendment to the entire plan, on the basis that it contains "no political changes, just changes to the numbers."

The party claims that the budget does not meet the 37-point agreement signed with the PP in order to guarantee their support for the investiture of Juan Manuel Moreno as regional premier. "[The budget] is removed from everything that the new government said that it was going to do," Hernández added.

Vox was the surprise success story of the Andalusian regional elections in December, picking up 12 seats. The Socialist Party, which had governed in Spain's most-populous region uninterruptedly for 36 years, won the most votes but fell short of a majority. This allowed the PP and Ciudadanos to form a government, but only thanks to the support of Vox. The three parties hold 59 seats in a house where 55 are needed for a majority.

Ahead of the Andalusian elections, Vox campaigned for the repeal of Spain's gender violence law and historical memory law, and a hardline stance on immigration. The proposed budget for the region includes maintaining €4.2 million of funds for gender violence, a €1 million increase for migration policies and a reduction of 6.9% in spending on historical memory. Vox has avoided discussing specific points of the budget that it believes are not in accordance with the deal it signed with the PP, but instead is objecting to the entire plan. "All of the activities and programs that do not have a clear public and social interest will not be supported," said the party. "But this is not about a specific program, but rather the overall project."

Vox is also demanding a seat at the table to negotiate both with the PP and Ciudadanos. Ahead of the formation of the Andalusian government, the far-right party was only in talks with the PP. Now, the group wants to sit down "with the government, which is made up of two parties."

English version by Simon Hunter.

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