Vote count gives extra seat to PP, further complicating Pedro Sánchez’s chances

The conservatives have picked up a deputy in the Basque Country, meaning the caretaker PM will need to secure key abstentions or support from another party to retake power

Caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Unidas Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias on Tuesday.
Caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Unidas Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias on Tuesday.Victor J Blanco (GTRES)

The conservative Popular Party (PP) was left without having won a single seat in the Basque Country at Sunday’s repeat general election. But after the final count of votes, including those of so-called “absent residents,” it turns out they won in the province of Bizkaia, bringing their new total in Congress to 89, and complicating yet further caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s bid to be voted back in to office.

Barring any legal challenges to the result, Beatriz Fanjul will become the 89th PP deputy in the Congress of Deputies for the upcoming political term. Until today, the seat belonged to the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), which was the most-voted group in the northern Basque Country region with seven deputies, and 32% of the votes cast.

Sánchez will require the abstention of the Catalan Republican Left, and Bildu, a Basque nationalist party

As at the April general election, Sánchez’s Socialist Party (PSOE) won the most seats at Sunday’s poll, but fell short of an absolute majority. On Monday, Sánchez and left-wing Unidas Podemos announced a pre-agreement for a coalition deal. Even with the sum of the two groups’ seats – 155 – they are still short of the 176 needed for an absolute majority.

The PNV is likely to support the PSOE-Unidas Podemos deal, but will now have only six seats in Congress rather than seven. Along with the likely support of other smaller parties, Sánchez would have 167 votes at the first round of an investiture debate – nine short of the majority.

At the second round of voting, however, just a simple majority is needed – more yes votes than no. This would mean, given that groups such as the PP, Ciudadanos (Citizens) and far-right Vox will vote against, that Sánchez will require the abstention of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), which won 13 seats, and Bildu, a Basque nationalist party that took five seats.

For now the Canarian Coalition is opting not to support Sánchez. But if it changes its mind and opts to vote yes, Sánchez would count on 169 votes and would need 13 abstentions – exactly the number of seats that ERC has.

PSOE consultations

Meanwhile, the PSOE is planning on consulting its members on the coalition agreement it is drawing up with Unidas Podemos, which is likely to include handing over a number of ministries to the left-wing party as well as giving one of the several deputy prime ministerial roles to its leader, Pablo Iglesias.

The party is also starting talks with the other parties that are likely to support Sánchez at an investiture vote – many of them the same that supported the caretaker prime minister when he tabled a successful vote of no confidence against then-PP Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy last summer, after the latter’s party was yet again mired in a corruption scandal.

The ERC is likely to be the biggest obstacle for Sánchez, given the tensions surrounding the ongoing independence drive in Catalonia. A recent Supreme Court ruling on the events of the fall of 2017 – which saw an illegal referendum on secession held in the region, followed by a unilateral declaration of independence – jailed nine politicians and civic leaders, prompting widespread demonstrations and protests, some of them violent. The ERC has already stated that it wants to discuss self-determination for Catalonia and deal with the issue of what it describes as the “political prisoners.”

Vox criticism

For its part, far-right Vox – which picked up 52 seats at Sunday’s election, up from the 24 it won in April – today added its voice to the PP and Ciudadanos’ criticism of the PSOE-Unidas Podemos coalition deal announced yesterday. The leader of Vox, Santiago Abascal, accused Pedro Sánchez of being “dishonest and ambitious” and of having “conned Spaniards” for having gone back on his word that such a coalition would not become a reality.

Vox leader Santiago Abascal (c) speaks in the Congress of Deputies on Wednesday.
Vox leader Santiago Abascal (c) speaks in the Congress of Deputies on Wednesday.Eduardo Parra (Europa Press)

Abascal went so far as to say that the caretaker government had sent the Spanish royal family on its first official visit to Cuba this week so that they can start to “acclimatize” themselves to what life could be like from now on in Spain.

At his first press conference in Congress since the general elections on Sunday, Abascal also claimed that he had direct evidence that the PSOE government had given the Civil Guard orders to withdraw from the freeways that were blocked this week by pro-Catalan independence protestors on the French border, and to not take action against the picket lines. Vox claims that the PSOE-Unidas Podemos deal will favor “institutional disorder” in the northeastern Spanish region.

Abascal also claimed that the PSOE-Unidas Podemos deal would mean “the destruction of the middle classes and the working classes, of the social harmony of Spaniards and the weakening of borders, of safety in the streets, and the delegitimizing of the monarchy.”

English version by Simon Hunter.

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