Today, Wednesday 26th October, is the vote for the investiture of a new Prime Minister of Spain. Mariano Rajoy of the Partido Popular (PP) former PM until the General Election in December 2015, is proposed and there will be a vote in the Cortes General. If there is not a PM/government in place before 23.59 on 31st October i.e. just before midnight next Monday, the country swings into election mode once again. That would be the third General Election in a year! Five days and counting…..
Spain, without an elected government for 311 days, continues to function, run, largely, by the Civil Service, but with ‘acting’ ministers, including Rajoy, as the last PM the country had. But neither the civil servants, nor the acting ministers, can make tough policy decisions, especially in certain areas, like foreign policy. So, currently the Spanish diplomatic service is engaged in talks with Egypt, to work towards an end to the Syria conflict, but it would be difficult for Spain to take part in any military intervention, as no one has the authority to make it happen.
Rajoy has already turned down one invitation from King Felipe to try for an investiture, back in January, fearing that he wouldn’t gain enough support in a Parliament where the PP, his party, has fewer deputies than all the other parties put together. No one party has an overall majority, so coalitions have to be built. His main rival, Pedro Sanchez of PSOE, accepted such an invitation and tried to get the necessary support during March, only to become the first ever Prime Ministerial candidate to fail in an investiture vote. Since then there has been another election and Rajoy too has tried and failed to get enough votes at an investiture.
Sanchez has now been ousted from his position as leader in an undignified scramble for power within the party ( see Democracy III ). He finally resigned on 1st October. PSOE is now led by its Federal Committee, governed by an ‘acting’ manager, Javier Fernandez Fernandez, currently the President of the Principality of the Asturias. The question is, what will PSOE delegates do in the investiture debate? When leader, Sanchez would not support Rajoy, preferring to align with Podemos, the newer party of the left, but the Committee is less enthusiastic about such an alliance. Sanchez still has support amongst PSOE Cortes deputies, who, the Committee has said, will not be allowed a free vote, insisting that party discipline should be maintained.
After much, very recent, debate, the Committee decided that PSOE will abstain. Thus, in effect, allowing today’s investiture to go ahead, albeit permitting Rajoy only a minority government. They, presumably, reason that this is the lesser of two evils – if another election were to be held in the near future PSOE would leak votes. Opinion polls show party support plummeting after the unseemly shenanigans of the Autumn. Podemos is ready to pick up disaffected PSOE voters so PSOE really could be eclipsed as the traditional party of the left. In any election it is likely that Rajoy and the PP, which has a solid, if minority, core support, would get a large mandate.
But…. what will the PSOE delegates do? Rajoy needs an absolute majority in the vote of 350 deputies. Last time he lost by only ten votes and there were no abstentions. This time if only some of PSOE’s 84 deputies abstain, he’s likely to win.
Will Spain finally get a new PM and a new government?
If you enjoyed reading this piece you might also enjoy other articles about Spanish politics, like Democracy III or Stalemate. Or on UK politics, such as Britain is Free, The Demagogue’s Handbook or Democracy