Rajoy faces second doomed vote to form Spanish government
Spain's acting prime minister will seek parliament's backing to form a government for the second time on Friday but has little hope of success, raising the possibility of a third election in a year.
Mariano Rajoy, whose conservative Popular Party (PP) has ruled since 2011, lost a first confidence vote on Wednesday with 170 in favour — six votes short of the required absolute majority.
This time around he only needs more votes in favour than against but he is expected to fail again since the parties that opposed him have said they will maintain their “no” votes rather than abstaining to allow him to form a minority government.
The PP, in power since 2011, won the most seats in elections held in December and June but fell short of a majority both times as voters angry over corruption and austerity flocked to new parties.
It has only managed to secure the support of new centrist party Ciudadanos and a lone MP from the Canary Islands.
If there is no breakthrough two months after Wednesday’s parliamentary ballot, vote-weary Spaniards will be asked to return to the polls in December.
The PP has pressured the Socialists, their main rivals who finished second in the last two elections, to drop their opposition.
“We can’t have new elections, we can’t be this ridiculous,” said the PP’s parliamentary spokesman, Rafael Hernando, ahead of the second vote in the assembly expected late Friday.
Rajoy argued during Wednesday’s debate that he deserved to be prime minister again because his party had won 2.5 million more votes than the Socialists in the June 26 election and was the only formation to boost its showing.
But Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez told MPs that Rajoy had “no credibility” because of allegations of illegal financing that have dogged the PP under his watch.
“We are going to do what we said we would do during the election campaign, which is to not allow Rajoy to remain at the head of the government,” the Socialists’ parliamentary spokesman Antonio Hernando said Thursday.
– ‘Clear cost’ –
Although Rajoy remains in office as acting prime minister, he has no power to propose legislation or spend on new infrastructure projects such as roads and railways.
Outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria warned ahead of Friday’s vote that a caretaker government cannot approve a budget for 2017, it can only roll over its spending plan for 2016.
This would have “a clear cost” to Spaniards and the economy since new projects cannot be approved and government spending in may areas would remain frozen, she added after a weekly cabinet meeting.
The lack of a fully-functioning government could even affect the payment of social benefits such as pensions and civil servant salaries to 14 million people as this depends on the budget, she said.
“As far as it can, the caretaker government will maintain peace of mind,” she said.
Spain must submit a draft 2017 budget to the European Union which outlines cuts to bring its budget deficit down to 3.1 percent next year by October 15.
– Basque elections –
One factor that could change the political calculus is the result of regional elections in the Basque Country on September 25.
The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), which has five seats, could support Rajoy nationally if it needs the backing of the PP to govern in the Basque Country following the regional polls.
The PNV has backed minority PP governments in the past but Rajoy has angered the party with policies it feels weaken its efforts to protect the Basque Country’s distinctive language and culture.