20th Mar 2018

Spain still far from having a government

  • The Spanish Congress of Deputies. Acting PM Mariano Rajoy is struggling to find a majority. (Photo: PP/Flickr)

Spain is likely to face a third general election in little over a year after acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy failed to win parliamentary vote on Wednesday (31 August) that would have allowed him to form a government.

Rajoy gathered the votes of 170 MPs, from his conservative Popular Party (PP), his new liberal ally Ciudadanos (Citizens) and a small party from the Canary Islands. He needed the backing of 176 MPs to form a government.

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A second vote will be held on Friday, where Rajoy will need only more yes votes that no votes.

Radical left-wing Podemos and smaller regional parties have ruled out giving any support to Rajoy, even through abstaining.

As a result, all eyes are on the Socialist Party (PSOE), the main opposition party. If the socialists abstain, Rajoy could form a minority government.

Its leader Pedro Sanchez has faced calls to "show responsibility" and break the political deadlock that has rumbled on through inconclusive elections in December and June.

But barring a dramatic change of heart from Sanchez, his 85 MPs will vote no again on Friday.

He said on Wednesday that his party would "not give in" and would vote no again.

"You said you needed the socialists to govern and Ciudadanos for the investiture. That is a government without opposition and that would be a term of blackmail," he told Rajoy in speech in parliament.

"We cannot support your blackmail, but denounce it."

On Tuesday, Rajoy had said that Spain needed a government "as fast as possible. If we don’t, things could turn bad and get worse".

If he loses again on Friday, Rajoy will still have almost two months to try to form a government.

Some PP officials hope that the Basque Nationalist Party, a Christian Democrat party with five MPs, might be willing to support Rajoy once the campaign for the Basque regional elections on 25 September is over.

In that case Rajoy would still be short of one vote in parliament.

Meanwhile, Podemos (We Can) along with smaller parties from Catalonia and Valencia are calling on Sanchez to form an alternative coalition. Together, PSOE and Podemos have 156 MPs and would need allies to get a majority.

If no government is formed within two months, a new election will be called on Christmas Day, or just before if a special law is voted to change the election calendar.

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