The Day In Spain #22



Rajoy addresses the Parliament without a chance of being re-elected

Incumbent PM Mariano Rajoy addressed the Parliament today, in his confidence debate speech. Most media outlets in Spain have qualified the speech as “boring” and “spineless”. Even Ciudadanos‘ spokesman Juan Carlos Girauta said that he was suprised that the conservative leader hasn’t addressed PSOE even once to try and get the few votes he needs to be re-elected.

There have been no surprises, and all parties except Ciudadanos and Coalición Canaria have remained steadfast in their opposition to Rajoy.


Today was the first session of the confidence debate. The Parliament will gather again tomorrow, and the party leaders will have the chance to reply to Rajoy. After a few more speaking turns, the MPs will vote, and unless there’s a massive surprise, Rajoy will be defeated at the confidence vote. On Friday, another vote will be held, and he’s not expected to win that either.

Rajoy has presented himself as the only viable candidate to lead the country the next 4 four years. He has incided in the immediate economic needs and Spain’s unity as the core element of his deal with Ciudadanos. That will further galvanize the right wing nationalist parties (PDC and PNV) against him, and if there was any ghost of a chance to change their minds, he has definitely killed it.

And he hasn’t pushed PSOE, which has even suprised PP‘s allies Ciudadanos. His spineless debate hasn’t played on the chance of flipping a few rogue socialist MPs from the most conservative areas. In a very Rajoyish style, he has said nothing at all. And this is unsettling. It’s still soon to know, but Rajoy could have already given up on being re-elected this fall and be already angling for a third round of elections. A vote would be extremely unpopular, and abstention would probably soar, which traditionally helps the conservatives in Spain. However, as I said, it’s too early, and we’ll have to see what happens in the next month.

Now, as a reminder, I’m pasting here yesterday’s explanation, which still works to provide some insight in the PM election process and PSOE‘s screwed situation:

The PM is elected by the parliament in a two-round vote after a confidence debate. In the first round (tomorrow), 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 (Friday), 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 (which they won’t), the country would enter a two-month period in which alternatives could be explored or PSOE could give up. If we reach 31 October 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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