Spain’s conservative opposition leader, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, faces a parliamentary investiture vote this week which he is widely expected to lose although he hopes it will bolster his credibility among hardliners.
Mr Núñez Feijóo led the Popular Party (PP) to victory in July’s general election. But even the support of its natural ally, the far-right Vox, is not enough for it to form a parliamentary majority. Despite appearing to be four votes short, the Galician has accepted King Felipe’s invitation to face the investiture process.
“[Nuñez] Feijóo is not going to be invested as prime minister, but rather as leader of the opposition,” noted political commentator Rubén Amón, who is among those who believe his defeat is unavoidable.
The investiture process begins on Tuesday with a debate, followed by a vote in which the aspirant requires an absolute majority in the 350-seat Congress. If he were to fail, another vote would be held on Friday, requiring only a simple majority, which also seems to be beyond the conservative’s reach.
The PP’s stridently unionist stance of recent years and its willingness to accept Vox’s support has meant that moderates which might have supported it in the past, such as the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), are refusing to do so this time.
On Sunday, Mr Nuñéz Feijóo appeared to admit how difficult the task was, as he addressed thousands of PP supporters who were demonstrating in central Madrid.
“Although it may prevent me from becoming prime minister, I will defend Spain as a united country of free and equal citizens,” he said.
The PP had called the demonstration against efforts by the Socialist acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, to form a new government of his own by securing the backing of Catalan nationalists. The Together for Catalonia party (JxCat) of self-exiled former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has demanded an amnesty for independence leaders facing legal action in exchange for his support in an investiture vote. Sánchez’s Socialist Party and its left-wing allies are considering the measure.
The possibility of an amnesty has drawn a backlash from the right, which claims that it would violate the constitution and weaken the country’s territorial unity. Some veteran figures in the Socialist ranks have also spoken out against it.
Mr Sánchez, who was runner-up in the summer election, could be invited to face an investiture vote in November.
“I’m sorry, but there is going to be a Socialist government,” he said, in a pointed response to the PP’s protest on Sunday.
If both party leaders fail to form a new government, a new election will be held, possibly in January.
Mr Núñez Feijóo took command of the PP just over a year ago, presenting himself as a moderate with a proven record of winning elections in his native Galicia. However, July’s disappointing election result has undermined his credibility, particularly on the right wing of his party. He has also struggled to present a clear strategy regarding his party’s relationship with Vox.
Pablo Simón, a political scientist at Madrid’s Carlos III university, sees the investiture as a gesture by the conservative leader aimed at quelling possible unrest within the party.
“He’s got to send the message to his voters that, having won the election, he is trying to form a government and that it’s the other parties that won’t let him,” he said.