The Day in Spain #20



Ciudadanos and PP face home stretch in their negotiations

Right wing parties Ciudadanos (liberal) and PP (conservative) face the last hours of their negotiation ahead of the confidence vote on Rajoy’s re-election next Tuesday. While both have recognised advances in the talks, PP was more optimistic. Ciudadanos, on the other hand, said that those advances were “insufficient”.

The leaders of the two parties, Mariano Rajoy (PP) and Albert Rivera (Ciudadanos), who don’t take part in the negotiations, were in touch yesterday to try to unlock them. Yesterday evening, the liberals established a 48 hour deadline to wrap up the talks. Ciudadanos said it was not realistic to expect a resolution today.

PP and Ciudadanos are negotiating the support ot the latter’s 32 MPs to Rajoy’s re-election as PM. While those would still not be enough for the incumbent PM to start his second term at Moncloa, they would be a good tool to put pressure on PSOE. If Rajoy secures Ciudadanos 32 votes and Coalición Canaria‘s single support (which is likely), he would still need 6 more “Yes” votes or 11 abstentions.

The PM is elected by the parliament in a two-round vote after a confidence debate. 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 is expected to secure 138 ‘Yes’ votes (137 from his own party and one from Coalición Canaria). Now, if he manages to change Ciudadanos abstention to a ‘Yes’ vote, he would be at 170 seats, and would put all the pressure onto PSOE to abstain. If PSOE doesn’t change its “No” vote, PP and Ciudadanos would then portray the socialists as the only party responsible for a very unpopular third round of elections.

PSOE proposes electoral reform to avoid Christmas Day elections, gets Podemos‘ and Ciudadanos‘ support

PSOE will file a proposal to modify the electoral law to avoid an election on Christmas Day. If approved, the reform would shorten the electoral campaign from two weeks to one, and the vote would take place on 18 December instead of Christmas Day. The socialists have received the immediate support of Ciudadanos and Podemos. People’s Party‘s MP Alicia Sánchez-Camacho said that her party doesn’t oppose the idea, but that now it’s not the time to do that.


PSOE strikes back. Last week we knew that Rajoy would address the Parliament on 30 August. The legal mechanism to call new elections will then start running, and if no candidate manages to be proclaimed PM, the King would call the vote on 31 October. The elections would be held 54 days after… on Christmas Day.

PSOE saw Rajoy’s date election as a way to put even more pressure on socialist leader Pedro Sánchez. Being protrayed as the party responsible of the deadlock is bad enough, but if that leads to a third round of elections on Christmas Day, PSOE could expect some serious backlash. PP said the date had nothing to do with that, and was the only one available that would allow the government to present the National Budget in time to be sent to the EU.

With this move, PSOE makes PP face its own strategy. If PP doesn’t manage to get Rajoy elected, they would have to bend or their trick would be exposed, and the conservatives could then be pointed as the party responsible for the Grinch policy. The elections would then take place on 18 December. That wouldn’t be popular at all, and PSOE would still take a lot of heat, but qualitatively and quantitaively better than on Christmas Day.

The confidence debate is the event that sets the clock running towards a new round of election. If the candidate (Mariano Rajoy) doesn’t obtain enough support (explained below), the Parliament would be dissolved two months after the debate (on 31 October) and new elections would be called the day after (1 November). Following a series of rules and legal terms, the elections would end up taking place on 25 December. Christmas Day.

Even if PP and Ciudadanos reach an agreement (which seems extremely likely), and PP manages to obtain one extra vote from Coalición Canaria (which is also likely), Rajoy’s party would still be in need of six more supports or eleven abstentions to be proclaimed PM. Because his government has alienated all the right wing nationalist parties with his centralist and inflexible measures in the last four years, these are not expected to support him. Basque elections on 25 September and a confidence vote on Catalan president Carles Puigdemont on 28 September make this a completely unrealistic option (at least until the end of September).

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). If the candidate fails again, there is a period of two months to try make it happen, after which, the king dissolves the Parliament and calls new elections.

A third round of elections is, at the moment, extremely unpopular in Spain, and PSOE would easily be portrayed by PP and Ciudadanos as the party responsible for the deadlock. Setting the vote on Christmas Day will make them even more unpopular, with people having to cancel their holidays to attend electoral duty. Abstention will probably soar, and PP usually benefits from that, as it has the most loyal voters.

Political talk: Iglesias asks Sánchez to make up his mind about an alternative government

Podemos leader, Pablo Iglesias, has asked socialist leader Pedro Sánchez to make up his mind about an alternative government. He insisted that he talked with Sánchez earlier this month to consider possible scenarios that could take place if Rajoy fails to be re-elected on Tuesday (which will likely happen).


PSOE is being pressured by Podemos to explore an alternative, progressive government, which PSOE says is not planning. The first step to reach this scenario would be the King calling a new round of consultations with the leaders of all the parties represented at the Parliament if Rajoy fails to be re-elected at the confidence debate. If the King finds that Sánchez has a better chance than Rajoy, he can then proclaim the socialist as a candidate. This is a protocolary role, and the king can’t refuse to proclaim him if he’s willing to run and he has a real chance.

Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez wouldn’t have enough with the support of Podemos 71 MPs, and would need to secure support from the Catalan nationalists PDC (8 seats) and ERC (9 seats). The price tag for that is one and only one: a binding referendum on Catalan independence, and that is a prize PSOE can’t assume.

Another option would be to try to bring together Ciudadanos and Podemos, repeating the move from the last term. The two parties have mutually vetoed each other, so the deal wouldn’t work, but PSOE could then try and charge them with the responsibility of a third round of elections.

It’s important to understand that 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).

Basque elections: EH Bildu appeals ban on Otegi’s nomination

EH Bildu‘s lawyers have filed today their appeal against the Electoral Board of Guipuzcoa’s decision to consider candidate Arnaldo Otegi inelegible as Lehendakari. The head lawyer, Íñigo Iruin said that the Supreme and Constitutional Courts have “repeatedly” said that incarceration and suspension end at the same time.

He also referred to article 42 of the Penal Code, which requires that the positions a person is suspended from be specified in the sentence. Otegi’s sentence doesn’t do it.


Guipuzcoa’s electoral board declared Arnaldo Otegi inelegible as Basque PM. He is suspended from running for office until 2021, after he was imprisoned in 2010 for trying to rebuild Batasuna (a party made illegal for allegedly supporting ETA). He was freed in March this year.

The lawyers have appealed the decision to the litigation court of San Sebastian, which now must rule on Monday or Tuesday. Whatever the decision, the “losing” side is expected to appeal before the Consitutional Court, which will rule on 7 September, just two days ahead of the start of the electoral campaign. The Basque elections will be held on 25 September.

Whatever happens, it must be understood that the fight around Otegi’s right to run for office is a political one, and not a legal one. Arnaldo Otegi is a very divisive figure both in the Basque Country and the rest of 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, which at the same time improves his image among left-wing voters. Otegi was freed in March 2016, after spending six years in prison for allegedly trying to rebuild the illegalised party Batasuna and “glorifying ETA” in a rally in San Sebastian in 2010. His imprisonment is seen by many as politically motivated.

One must understand that ETA’s terrorism is heavily instrumentalised in the Spanish political sphere. Insisting in his inability to run would increase polarization in the Basque Country and Catalonia, where the Spanish establishment would be perceived as authoritarian. At the same time, his nomination is a way to polarize the campaign and attract the sympathy of left wing voters from parties such as Podemos.

To know more about this, check this article.


One thought on “The Day in Spain #20

  1. Pingback: The Day in Spain #23 – Santiago Saez

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