Friday

21st Jul 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 and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  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.

Cyprus talks up in the air

A week after the failure of negotiations to reunite the islands, Greek Cypriots are calling on Turkish Cypriots to reaffirm their commitment to the process.

New Romanian PM tries to reassure EU

"Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past," said the new Romanian prime minister, Mihai Tudose, in Brussels amid EU Commission warning on corruption.

Investigation

Mafia money pollutes the EU economy

Huge amounts of money from criminal activities are funnelled into the legitimate European economy. But little is being done about it at EU or national level.

Investigation

Free movement of organised crime in Europe

The mafia is often seen as being a traditionally Italian concern, but evidence shows that it might be much closer to home than many Europeans think.

News in Brief

  1. Polish parliament adopts controversial justice reform
  2. GMO opt-out plan unlikely to go anywhere in 2017
  3. Slovak PM threatens to boycott inferior food
  4. France takes Google's 'right to be forgotten' to EU court
  5. Turkey accuses German companies of supporting terror
  6. Israel's Netanyahu caught calling EU 'crazy'
  7. UK does not collect enough data to expel EU nationals
  8. Polish president threatens to veto justice reform

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  2. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  3. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  4. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  5. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  6. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  9. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  10. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  12. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School

Latest News

  1. Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU
  2. EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions
  3. Law expert: direct EU powers have become too complicated
  4. Winter is here for Spitzenkandidat, but he'll survive
  5. Mafia money pollutes the EU economy
  6. Central Europe should be wary of Brexit stopping
  7. Poland's 'July coup' and what it means for the judiciary
  8. Commission: clean up diesel cars, or EU agency inevitable

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  2. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  3. EU2017EEPM Ratas: EU Is Not Only an Idea for the 500mn People in the Bloc, It Is Their Daily Reality
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy
  5. ILGA-EuropeGermany Finally Says Ja - Bundestag Votes for Marriage Equality!
  6. EPSUJapanese and European Public Sector Unions Slam JEFTA
  7. World VisionEU, Young Leaders and Civil Society Join Forces to End Violence Against Girls
  8. UNICEFNarrowing the Gaps: The Power of Investing in the Health of the Poorest Children
  9. EU2017EEEstonia to Surprise Europe With Unique Cultural Programme
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Talks Should Insist on Ending Reprisals Vs. Critical Voices
  11. European Free AllianceEFA Is Looking for a New Intern
  12. Malta EU 2017Conservation of Atlantic Tunas: International Measures Become EU Law