Friday

20th Oct 2017

Spain braces for Christmas election

  • Leaders of the four main parties Rajoy, Sanchez, Rivera and Iglesias (from left to right) are still looking for ways to form winning coalitions. (Photo: Podemos/Flickr)

Spaniards are bracing themselves for a Christmas election after caretaker prime minister Mariano Rajoy failed to win parliamentary backing to form a government.

The conservative leader lost votes on Wednesday and Friday last week – the second time the parliament has rejected a leader’s bid to become prime minister since a December general election delivered a fragmented parliament.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

In March, the leader of the Socialist Party (PSOE), Pedro Sanchez, also failed to win a parliamentary majority. Spaniards voted in a repeat general election in June after a two-month deadline to form a government expired.

Rajoy’s defeat in Friday’s vote has triggered another two-month deadline for a candidate to win a majority: if no-one can do so by 31 October, king Felipe will dissolve the parliament for a third general election in just over a year.

Opinion polls suggest a third vote would deliver a similarly fragmented parliament. Turnout could be low since it would fall on 25 December, the day after Spaniards have Christmas dinner, kicking off a festive period that finishes with Epiphany on 6 January.

“Voting at Christmas would be absolutely ludicrous,” said Antonio Lopez, a pensioner having a cup of tea at a cafe in Madrid. “Both Rajoy and Sanchez should step aside. That’s the real way to solve this. We need new leaders to negotiate.”

Lopez voted in December and June for Ciudadanos (Citizens), a small centrist party that won seats in the national parliament last year for the first time. It reached deals with both the Socialists, in March, and the conservative People’s Party (PP), in August, to support both confidence bids. Lopez said he would vote for the party again if a third election is called.

Ciudadanos’ leader Albert Rivera apologised on behalf of his party for the failure to form a government in the last eight months.

“I’d like to say sorry for not having convinced these old parties to reach an agreement,” he told parliament on Friday. “I’m not ashamed of saying to our compatriots that I feel part of the failure of this house.”

Not all Ciudadanos voters are impressed with the party’s support for the PP and the Socialist premiership bids.

Ciudadanos, the fourth largest party in the parliament, lost eight seats at the June repeat election, falling to 32, as many voters switched back to the PP, the only party to increase votes and seats in June.

Ana Molina, a 34-year-old Spanish-Venezuelan, having a drink in the same cafe, says she will switch back to voting Socialist after the Ciudadanos deal with the PP. “I wanted an option in the centre,” not a vote in support of the right, she said.

Regional factor

The collapse of Rajoy’s bid sends the politicians back to the drawing board. Most analysts think the king will not nominate a new candidate to seek the backing of parliament until after regional elections in the Basque and Galicia regions on 25 September.

If the Basque Nationalist Party needs the support of the PP to continue running the Basque region, it could lend its five votes to the PP in the national parliament in Madrid, leaving the PP one vote short of the 176 seat absolute majority.

“Whatever happens, Rajoy will not offer up his head – he’s of the firm conviction that he won the elections and should remain prime minister,” said Sebastian Mariz, from Fipra, a political consultancy.

“If the PP doesn’t win in Galicia [a party stronghold], I don’t think they’ll seek another investiture vote. I think they’ll go to third elections.”

Mariz thinks there is a 75 percent chance of getting a government without a third election. The PP is banking on a last-minute abstention by the Socialists before the 31 October deadline.

Some Socialists have questioned the stance of their leadership to reject Rajoy since they have 85 seats, compared with the PP’s 137. An alliance with left-wing newcomers Podemos alone would leave them 20 seats short. Many Socialists distrust the radical Podemos and rule out a pact with Catalan separatist parties.

A three-way Socialist-Podemos-Ciudadanos pact would deliver a 188 seat majority but has so far looked unlikely. Podemos and Ciudadanos have in the past ruled out being part of the same government.

But on Saturday, Sanchez seemed to reach out to the two parties. “How many more reasons do the forces of change need to reach an agreement and end the failure of the Rajoy government?” he asked at a rally in Galicia.

His appeal to Podemos and Ciudadanos, which have both promised to clean up politics, came as the the caretaker government announced on Friday that it was proposing former industry minister Jose Manuel Soria for a €226,500-a-year post to represent Spain at the World Bank.

Soria resigned in April after being named in the Panama Papers for having links to an offshore company on the British island of Jersey.

Frustration

Some analysts believe the chance of a repeat election has increased since last week's parliamentary debates.

“Rajoy’s harsh tone against Sanchez and his party in the investiture bid has probably reinforced the Socialist leader’s internal position and his rejection of Rajoy,” said Antonio Barroso, deputy director of research for Teneo Intelligence, a political risk consultancy.

“Part of the PSOE leadership seems to believe that a third election would dent support for Podemos and put the Socialists in a stronger position.”

As the political impasse drags on, voters are frustrated. “I’m undecided as to who I’d vote for,” said Alvaro Perez, sharing a drink with Ana Molina. “I’ll be watching out for changes, for any potential deals, but I’ll only vote again if I feel my vote is really useful.”

Spain still far from having a government

Acting PM Mariano Rajoy lost a confidence vote on Wednesday and is likely to lose another one on Friday. The deadlock could lead to new elections in December.

Anti-corruption pact holds key to Spain deadlock

After eight months and two elections, Spain's political parties edge closer to a deal that would keep Mariano Rajoy as prime minister in return for anti-corruption reforms.

Spain points at elections as exit to Catalan crisis

Spanish political leaders called on Catalan separatists to organise regional elections as a way to avoid emergency measures due to be taken on Thursday. That's "not on the table", a Catalan official replied.

News in Brief

  1. Rajoy to trigger Article 155 on Saturday in Catalan crisis
  2. EU conducts unannounced inspection of German car firm
  3. Lithuania calls for new EU energy laws
  4. EU leaders aim for December for defence cooperation
  5. Juncker says hands tied on Russia pipeline
  6. Czechs set to elect billionaire Andrej Babis
  7. Italian regions hold referendums on more autonomy
  8. EU leaders refuse to mediate Catalonia conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  2. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving up to 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  3. European Jewish CongressEJC Applauds the Bulgarian Government for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  4. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  5. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  8. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  9. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  10. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  11. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!
  12. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  3. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year
  4. ILGA-EuropeMass Detention of Azeri LGBTI People - the LGBTI Community Urgently Needs Your Support
  5. European Free AllianceCatalans Have Won the Right to Have an Independent State
  6. ECR GroupBrexit: Delaying the Start of Negotiations Is Not a Solution
  7. EU2017EEPM Ratas in Poland: "We Enjoy the Fruits of European Cooperation Thanks to Solidarity"
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina and UK Discuss Deepening of Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceEHLA Joins Commissioners Navracsics, Andriukaitis and Hogan at EU Week of Sport
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Representative Office Opens in Brussels to Foster Better Cooperation
  11. UNICEFSocial Protection in the Contexts of Fragility & Forced Displacement
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Support Start-Ups