Friday 28 July 2017

Rajoy to keep control in Spain as rival ends 10-month stalemate

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy
Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy

James Badcock

Spain's conservative leader Mariano Rajoy is set to secure another term in power after his Socialist rivals agreed to abstain in a forthcoming confidence vote, ending 10 months of political stalemate.

The country has been in limbo after two general elections in which no party has won a majority and was on the verge of heading to the polls for a third time.

The Socialist PSOE party yesterday decided its members of parliament would abstain in a confidence vote on Mr Rajoy due to be held before October 31, allowing him to form a government.

The PSOE's decision was carried at a vote by 139 to 96, an indication of the deep divisions within the party.

It met without an official leader, after Pedro Sanchez resigned earlier this month over criticism of his insistence on voting against a Rajoy-led People's Party (PP) government.

Mr Sanchez's bid to become prime minister with the support of anti-austerity party Podemos and a smattering of Catalan nationalists had already caused a very public split among leading party members.

Javier Fernandez, interim PSOE leader, admitted that there had been a "frank and tough" debate.

He said all of the party's members of congress would have to accept the decision or face disciplinary measures.

"All Socialist deputies must abstain, as simple as that," he said.

However, the Catalan branch of the PSOE party has already said its members will vote against Mr Rajoy, whose popularity has been corroded by austerity measures and a series of corruption scandals that have tainted the PP.

Ciudadanos, a centrist party, has already said it would support Mr Rajoy in exchange for pledges on a series of anti-corruption measures. Shortly after yesterday's vote, Mr Sanchez said that "party members will soon recover and rebuild a PSOE which is independent and distanced from the PP".

Given the depth of the divide among the Socialist party, many parliamentarians will feel relief they are not going to face another election this year, with Podemos twice coming close to overtaking the party to become Spain's second biggest political force, last December and again in June.

Mr Fernandez claimed that the PSOE would continue to act as the opposition to a new PP government, but Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias said PSOE had effectively agreed to form a "grand coalition" with Mr Rajoy.

Irish Independent

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