5th Mar 2024

Spain's king asks conservative Feijóo to form government

  • Centre-right Popular Party leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo. The Spanish king's decision was based on 'tradition' of supporting candidate of party or group with most votes (Photo: European People's Party)
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Spain's King Felipe VI has nominated the conservative leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo to be the country's next prime minister.

Following inconclusive results on 23 July, both the socialist incumbent Pedro Sánchez and the conservative Alberto Núñez Feijóo put themselves forward as candidates for an inauguration — for which neither had sufficient parliamentary support, however.

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Núñez Feijóo was the candidate with the most votes in national election last month, but his party did not reach the majority of 176 seats needed to form a government.

Under the current scenario, with the support of the far-right Vox party (33) and the regionalist UPN and Coalición Canaria parties, he would be just four seats short of that majority.

The only chance of obtaining sufficient political support would be with the seats of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) — which has already refused to support Feijóo on several occasions.

In this multi-polar context, Felipe VI's decision was based on the 'tradition' of supporting the candidate of the force with the most votes, which is why the monarch gave the centre-right Popular Party leader a first attempt at investiture.

The Spanish constitution stipulates that the king proposes a candidate for investiture after consulting with the parties. This does not mean that this nomination is necessary to govern.

In practice, the candidate must be voted on by the members of the congress (lower house). A vote in which Feijóo would have to win an absolute majority — or a simple majority in a second vote (more votes in favour than against) to be held 48 hours later.

This inauguration session does not yet have a date.

However, if the necessary support is not achieved two months after this first vote, new elections will be held, probably in December, but possibly as late as January.

The defeat of the conservative Feijóo is almost certain, given the potential support already expressed by the other political parties.

Incumbent centre-left prime minister Sánchez himself is confident of his chances. "We believe that the socialist party (PSOE) is capable of gathering support for the inauguration, as was shown last week," he said.

Last Thursday, the socialists took control of the parliament, where they won an absolute majority with the support of the Catalan independence separatists led by the self-exiled Carles Puigdemont.

Sánchez is theoretically in a better position to secure the necessary support to become the next prime minister, but his support is not yet assured.

"The investiture is exactly where it was the day after the elections," Puigdemont said on social media after the vote in congress.

The PSOE need several partners to govern, as they have only 152 seats, including those of the leftwing Sumar party.

"If future agreements are reached, it will be because (political promises) have a verifiable guarantee," Puigdemont also tweeted.

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