Spain’s acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy accepted King Felipe VI’s request on Tuesday to seek Parliament’s approval to form a government and end the country’s ten months of political deadlock. Rajoy is all but guaranteed to obtain that approval either yesterday or tomorrow (Saturday) following the rival Socialist party’s decision on Sunday to stop blocking his bid and to abstain in a second parliamentary vote.
Two inconclusive elections since December have left Rajoy running a caretaker government. The Partido Popular got most seats in both elections, but lacks a parliamentary majority and needs outside support to form a minority government.
Rajoy spoke on Tuesday after the King wrapped up two days of talks with leaders from each party in an effort to end the impasse ahead of a deadline this coming Monday. If no government is in place by that date, a third round of elections would have to be called.
The investiture session started on Wednesday, with a first vote taking place yesterday (Thursday), ahead of a second and final one on Saturday. At the time of going to press, Rajoy was unlikely to get the necessary absolute majority of votes in the 350-seat chamber in the first round. During a second vote, he would only need more deputies in favour than against, meaning that barring a major upset, he would be elected premier on a full-time basis over the weekend.
As it stands, Rajoy has the support of 170 deputies – 137 of them from his own party, and the rest from the centrist Ciudadanos party. The PSOE socialist party, who have 84 deputies, voted for the abstention to avoid a potentially disastrous third election and more political uncertainty. The party, long one of the country’s major political groups, suffered its worst-ever results in both the December and June elections.
It agreed to vote against Rajoy in the first vote, but abstain in a second round, thus letting him through. But the Socialists remain bitterly divided over the abstention issue, which led to the resignation of their leader Pedro Sanchez earlier this month. Some regional leaders are threatening to rebel and vote against Rajoy, but this is unlikely to change the outcome, though the vote may not spell the end of the period of uncertainty. Acting leader Javier Fernandez said this week that the Socialists would not support the PP’s 2017 budget which proposes five billion euros of cuts to meet European Union targets.
“In no event do we plan on giving stability to Rajoy’s government or approving its budgets,” Javier Fernandez told reporters.