The Day in Spain #21



Rajoy meets Sánchez, heads on to an expected defeat at the confidence vote

PSOE‘s leader Pedro Sánchez has confirmed today that his 85 MPs will vote against Mariano Rajoy’s re-election as Prime Minister. After a very short meeting between Rajoy and Sánchez, the socialist leader said that there is no room for surprises. Rajoy, who hasn’t even tried to convince right wing nationalists PNV and PDC, faces the vote with 170 supports, six short of the required absolute majority. Unless there is a major surprise, he will also be defeated at the second round, to be held on Friday.

The People’s Party, which obtained 137 seats in the last elections, reached deals with Ciudadanos (32 seats) and Coalición Canaria (1 seat) during the weekend. Rajoy asked for PSOE‘s abstention, which he said “would not mean support”. Sánchez, on the other hand, said that there are no new facts to make his party reconsider its opposition. He didn’t make clear what his strategy will be if Rajoy fails, as it’s expected.


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 has secured 170 supports (his party’s 137, Ciudadanos‘ 32 and Coalición Canaria‘s 1) and is trying to put all the pressure onto PSOE to abstain. If PSOE doesn’t change its “No” vote, the country would enter a two-months period in which alternatives could be explored or PSOE could give up. If we reach October 31st without a government, the King would dissolve the Parliament and call new elections.

PP and Ciudadanos would then work to portray the socialists as the only party responsible for the vote, whic, at the moment, is immensely unpopular.

“Why can’t Rajoy reach an agreement with other parties? He only needs 6 more seats!”

Rajoy has alienated the right wing nationalist parties that could be his natural allies (as they were Aznar’s from 1996 to 2000). He has taken every possible step towards curtailing pro-independence moves in Catalonia (with even the Interior Minister constructing corruption cases against pro-independence parties). At the same time, he has been very inflexible towards any negotiation during the previous term, using his absolute majority to steamroll reforms and cuts. At the same time, his party is involved in major corruption cases. He’s considered “toxic” for nationalist and regionalist parties.

On the other side of the board, 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).


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