Rajoy’s government hangs in the balance

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy addresses a press conference at La Moncloa Palace, the Spanish Prime Minister's official residence, in Madrid, Spain, 25 May 2018, after the main Spanish opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) presented a motion of no-confidence against him at parliament. PSOE presented the motion on 25 May, a day after the Audiencia Nacional court announced the sentences in the Guertel Case, in which several former members of the ruling People's Party are involved. EPA-EFE/CHEMA MOYA

Rajoy’s government hangs in the balance


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Spain is edging towards the collapse of the conservative Mariano Rajoy-led government and towards early elections following a no-confidence motion that came after a ruling by Spain’s High Court on May 24 that condemned the ruling Popular Party (PP) in a high-profile kickbacks-for-contracts scandal.

The court ruled that from 1999 to 2005 Francisco Correa, a businessman with close ties to the PP paid bribes to party officials in return for contracts to carry out public works and organise events. Correa was sentenced to 51 years in prison and the PP has been fined €250,000.

Spain’s Socialist Party (PSOE) leader Pedro Sánchez called for a non-confidence vote and the formation of a new government on May 26. The Socialists’ call for snap elections has the support of the radical leftist Podemos party, who also threw its support behind the PSOE’s plan to form a transition government.

The PP’s centre-right coalition partner, Ciutadanos, has also backed the idea of going to the polls, although they will not support the Socialists’ call for the formation of a transitional government led by the far-left.

Despite their ideological differences, neither the PSOE nor he Cuidadanos want an alliance with the Catalan secessionist parties. They will, however, seek the support of both the Basque and Canary Island nationalists in pushing for early elections.

Rajoy said his party is ready to appeal the court’s decision, but stressed that Spain is not ready for a national poll while Catalonia is under direct rule from Madrid after Catalan secessionists held an illegal vote to break away from the rest of Spain in October 2017. He also underscored that it was not in the national interest to see the government fall while the country is in the middle of experiencing three successive years of robust growth and shrinking unemployment.

Ciudandanos leader Albert Rivera and Rajoy reportedly discussed the latter’s immediate fate with Rajoy, who has been the Spanish prime minister since taking over from hardline Socialist José Zapatero in November 2011, saying he intends to end his term in 2020.

Rivera stands to gain from new elections, as polls indicate that Ciudadanos – whose platform is based progressivism, secularism, and constitutionalism – is the leading centre-right party in the country and strongly in favour of maintaining Spain as a unified state, despite its Catalan origins.

Finding common ground amongst the various opposition parties will prove to be difficult. Ciudadanos and the Socialists, while in agreement about early elections, have no other common platforms to build wider support.

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