22nd Mar 2018

Spain's Rajoy warns of minority rule

Spain's acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy said he accepted a mandate from king Felipe VI to form a new government, but warned he may fail.

Rajoy will open a new round of talks with other parties and try to convince them to vote for a conservative-led government to break the seven month deadlock since the December elections and a second inconclusive ballot in June.

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Earlier negotiations and discussions on Thursday (28 July) failed to produce enough support for his conservative Popular Party (PP), which has 137 seats in parliament where 176 is needed for a majority.

"Spain needs a government now. I will try to form this government, but not everything depends on me," Rajoy said at a news conference on Thursday after meeting the king.

He argued that there was no alternative to a PP-led government. The party lost its absolute majority in the 20 December elections, and has not won the backing of the other main parties since then to form a government. It is an impasse that has left the country in a political turmoil.

"We want to change Rajoy's government and this is why we will vote no in a confidence vote," Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez said, whose party finished second at the ballot boxes.

Left-wing Unidos Podemos ("Together We Can") also reiterated after talks with the king that they would oppose Rajoy.

Ciudadanos (Citizens), a centrist-liberal party, which finished fourth, ruled out support for a second Rajoy government, but would abstain instead.

Rajoy has not yet revealed when he plans to hold a confidence vote.

But without backing from the Socialists, Rajoy would find it almost impossible to secure a majority for a second term.

Rajoy said in that case he would seek to run a minority government, which would require the Socialists to abstain in the confidence vote. PP was the only party in the June elections which won more seats than in December.

But a minority government rule would slow down lawmaking as each bill would have to be negotiated to secure enough support.

Time is pressing as Spain needs to pass next year's budget by October and send it to the EU Commission.

Spain avoided sanctions earlier this week for failing to bring down its budget deficit to under 3 percent as required by EU rules.

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