Socialists scramble to gather support for motion against Mariano Rajoy

Spanish prime minister faces no-confidence vote this week

 Spanish Socialist Party announced on May 25th   the presentation of a motion of no confidence against the Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy. Photograph: EPA/Chema Moya

Spanish Socialist Party announced on May 25th the presentation of a motion of no confidence against the Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy. Photograph: EPA/Chema Moya

 

The Spanish Socialist Party is struggling to gather support for a no-confidence motion it has brought against prime minister Mariano Rajoy and which is due to be debated in parliament on Thursday and Friday.

Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez requested the motion on Friday, citing the torrent of corruption scandals that have plagued the governing Popular Party (PP). On Thursday the high court found the PP guilty of involvement in a bribes-for-contracts network.

The speaker of congress, Ana Pastor, spoke to Mr Sánchez before announcing that the debate will begin this Thursday and conclude the next day with a vote on whether to remove the prime minister from office.

“This no-confidence motion was ethically necessary in the context of a court sentence which states in black and white things of enormous seriousness that affect the prime minister,” said Margarita Robles, spokeswoman for the Socialist Party.

If her party’s motion is successful, Mr Sánchez will become prime minister. He has said that if that happens, he will call elections although he has not said when.

However, his bid to remove Mr Rajoy from office, which requires an absolute majority, faces difficulties in Spain’s fragmented parliament.

So far, the only major party openly supporting the initiative is the leftist Podemos, although it is consulting its members for a final decision ahead of the debate.

“It is essential and urgent to remove the PP from government,” tweeted Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias, who comfortably survived an internal party confidence motion of his own last week. He added that his priority is “a progressive government with a consensual agenda focused on regeneration and social rescue.”

It is not clear how much the Socialists would negotiate future policies with Podemos, or indeed whether they would be willing to share power with the anti-austerity party. However, the biggest single obstacle to the success of the no-confidence motion is the centre-right Ciudadanos, which instead is calling for a snap general election.

Stability

“Corruption has ended the legislature,” said Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera. If Mr Rajoy refuses to call an election in the coming days, Mr Rivera added, he will call on the Socialists to withdraw their motion and present another, fronted by an independent candidate for prime minister who could lead the country until an election in the autumn.

Ciudadanos, which does not have enough seats to present its own no-confidence motion, has been the PP’s main parliamentary support, helping it pass the 2018 budget last week. However, it is currently leading many polls and the recent corruption verdict appears to have persuaded it to break with Mr Rajoy’s conservatives.

Without the support of Ciudadanos, the Socialists would need to secure the backing of several Basque and Catalan nationalist parties. With Mr Sánchez insisting he is not negotiating terms with any parliamentary group ahead of Friday’s vote, their backing is far from certain.

Despite the current turmoil, government spokesman Íñigo Méndez de Vigo said Mr Rajoy had no intention of stepping aside.

“The prime minister will not resign because he believes that Spain needs stability and it gets stability from the government, not from a no-confidence motion,” he said.