The Day in Spain #8



Albert Rivera will unexpectedly talk to the press today at 17h, one day before he meets Rajoy

Ciudadanos’ (centre-right, liberal) leader Albert Rivera has summoned the press this afternoon at 17h. Rivera won’t answer questions, and his party hasn’t given any details about the topics of the presser.

Rivera is meeting incumbent PM Mariano Rajoy (PP) tomorrow at 12h. The meeting was initially expected to be focused only in finding common ground to pass the expense ceiling and other economic bills. However, Rivera’s decision to talk to the media has stirred all sorts of theories, and it’s not discarded that he will announce a disposition to change the direction of his party’s vote.


Ciudadanos’ MPs announced several times that they would abstain at an eventual confidence debate on Rajoy’s re-election. However, the liberal party has changed the direction of its vote several times since December, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see a ‘Yes’ vote.

Even if that is the case, Rajoy still needs to work to be re-elected. The incumbent president still needs PSOE’s abstention or the support of PDC (right, Catalan independentist) or PNV (right, Basque independentist). All three cases look extremely unlikely at the moment.

However, if Ciudadanos 32 seats decided to support Rajoy, pressure would double onto PSOE to abstain. Forcing a third round of elections would be a controversial move in Spanish politics.

The PM is elected by the parliament in a two-round vote. In the first round, the candidate nominated by the King (in this case, Mariano Rajoy), needs an absolute majority of votes (that is, 176 seats). If he fails, a second round takes place 48 hours later, and that time, the candidate only needs a simple majority (more ‘Yes’ than ‘No’ votes).

At the moment, Rajoy has secured 138 ‘Yes’ votes (137 from his own party and one from Coalición Canaria). He has also secured Ciudadanos abstention in the second round, so he would need to make sure that ‘No’ votes don’t amount to more than 137.

Podemos 71 seats, ERC’s 9 (centre-left, Catalan nationalist) and EH Bildu’s 2 (left, Basque nationalist) are guaranteed to vote against Rajoy, so the incumbent PM has a wiggling room of 55 seats. His problem is that PSOE’s 85 seats are positioned against him, so unless Ciudadanos decides to change to a ‘Yes’ vote, Spain will head to a new round of elections.

Political talk of the day: PSOE to vote no regardless of C’s vote

Political actors haven’t been very outspoken today, as the country waits for Rajoy (PP) and Rivera (Ciudadanos) to meet tomorrow. Although it was not initially expected that the two leaders would negotiate Ciudadanos’ support to Rajoy’s re-election, Rivera’s surprising decision to summon the press this afternoon has open the door to speculation.

PP candidate to the Basque PM seat, Alfonso Alonso, has declared that if C’s were to support Rajoy, that would be a “definitive”move, mounting the pressure on PSOE to give up its opposition. PSOE’s spokesman in the Parliament, Óscar López, has assured that PSOE’s 85 MPs will vote ‘No’ to Rajoy regardless.


PP (right, conservative) is trying to play on PSOE’s (centre-left, social-democrat) internal divisions and the unpopularity of forcing a third round of elections. The conservatives are building the case against the socialists, who they try to portrait as the holders of the key to a stable government.

PSOE has a double nature. While most of its voters in large cities are progressive, its rural base is conservative in many issues, and particularly sensitive to anything related to increased autonomy for Catalonia or ETA inmates. This division can be largely appreciated in the different discourses held by the Socialist PMs in Andalusia (Susana Díaz, conservative) and Valencia (Ximo Puig, progressive).

By putting the decision in PSOE’s hands, PP is expertly using game theory in its advantage. Will you support us and keep half your voters? Or will you force a third round of elections and risk losing it all?

However PSOE points to another possibility: PP could still form government if it gathers the support of Ciudadanos and either PDC (right, Catalan separatist) or PNV (right, Basque nationalist). Any deal with the Catalan party is not realistic, with the ongoing feud over Catalan pro-independence process. PNV could still have a chance, but the Basque regional elections are on 25 September, so the Basque party won’t get anywhere close to Rajoy before that date.

Basque elections: PP, C’s and UPyD to challenge Otegi’s elegibility

PP (right, conservative, centralist), Ciudadanos (centre-right, liberal, centralist) and UPyD (centre-right, liberal, centralist) have announced that they will appeal against the elegibility of  EH Bildu’s (left, anti-capitalist, Basque separatist) candidate, Arnaldo Otegi.

Otegi is allegedly suspended from running for office until 2021, after he was sentenced for trying to rebuild Batasuna, an illegalised pro-independence Basque organisation. However, the sentence doesn’t explain which charges he’s exactly accused of, which could render it impossible to execute.


Arnaldo Otegi is a very divisive figure both in the Basque Country and Spain. Hailed by many as the main leaderhead of the Basque pro-independence movement, his past relationship with ETA makes him the target of outright hate from conservative sectors of society. Otegi was freed in March 2016, after spending six years in prison for allegedly “glorifying ETA” in a rally in San Sebastian in 2010. His imprisonment is seen by many as politically motivated.

One must understand that ETA terrorism is heavily instrumentalised in the Spanish political sphere, so the ability of Arnaldo Otegi to run for office goes beyond a legal issue. Insisting in his inability to run would increase polarization in the Basque Country and Catalonia, where the Spanish establishment would be perceived as authoritarian. In Madrid, this polarization favours PP, which could use this as a tool to put pressure on PSOE towards Rajoy’s re-election.

Catalonia: CUP will only negotiate the Budget if PDC compromises a referendum on independence

Catalan party CUP (left, anti-capitalist, pro-independence) has announced that it will only support PDC’s (right, liberal, pro-independence) Budget proposal if it includes funding for a referendum on independence on 2017. However, CUP members Xevi Generó and Natàlia Sánchez, said that their party is open to other options towards a democratic disconnection from Spain.


The Catalan governing party (PDC) is in minority in the regional Parliament. While they have counted with the support of CUP for some key measures, such as electing a president, the only common ground for both groups is Catalan independence. Any deviation from that target could make CUP turn against PDC, and the whole region would become politically unstable.

However, PDC is not traditionally separatist. While its nature is decidedly Catalanist (that is, that considers Catalonia as an independent entity from Spain), the group hasn’t advocated for disconnection from the State until 2015. While it’s to be expected that the negotiations include some sort of independence mechanism in the Catalan roadmap, this will come at a high price.


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