Spain’s po­lit­i­cal grid­lock nears end as so­cial­ists lift long veto

Con­ser­va­tives can now form mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

MADRID: Spain’s em­bat­tled So­cial­ists yes­ter­day voted to lift a long-stand­ing veto that has pre­vented the con­ser­va­tives from form­ing a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment, in what should fi­nally end a ten-month po­lit­i­cal im­passe. The con­ser­va­tive Pop­u­lar Party (PP) of act­ing Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy won elec­tions in De­cem­ber 2015 and again in June this year but with­out enough seats to rule alone. The PP there­fore needs the main op­po­si­tion So­cial­ists to ei­ther sup­port its gov­ern­ment or ab­stain in a par­lia­men­tary con­fi­dence vote.

Yes­ter­day, the pol­icy-set­ting fed­eral com­mit­tee of the deeply-di­vided So­cial­ists (PSOE) voted 139 to 96 for ab­stain­ing, the group­ing an­nounced on its Twit­ter feed. The vote capped a high-risk meet­ing that fol­lowed weeks of in-fight­ing within the PSOE, Spain’s sec­ond largest party. The group­ing has been weak­ened by dis­mal elec­tion re­sults and in­ter­nal strat­egy dis­agree­ments amid Spain’s ef­forts to form a gov­ern­ment after the two in­con­clu­sive gen­eral elec­tions.

The di­vi­sions came to a head ear­lier this month when high-rank­ing So­cial­ists amenable to a con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment-so as to avoid a third elec­tion-forced party leader Pe­dro Sanchez to re­sign. Sanchez had long op­posed Ra­joy, who came to power in 2011 and whose four-year term was marked by a se­ries of cor­rup­tion scan­dals. With Sanchez out of the way and the party run by an in­terim ex­ec­u­tive, many of the del­e­gates at yes­ter­day’s meet­ing sup­ported an ab­sten­tion.

“Most Spa­niards, more than 65 per­cent, don’t want to go back to the bal­lot box and it’s the same among So­cial­ist vot­ers,” said law­maker Ig­na­cio Urquizu. Now that the So­cial­ists have de­cided to ab­stain from an­other par­lia­men­tary con­fi­dence vote, Ra­joy-who lost one in Septem­ber-could sub­mit him­self to an­other one next week, with some con­fi­dence of vic­tory.

Di­vi­sions per­sist

Still, di­vi­sions per­sist within the So­cial­ists. “We are com­ing to the fed­eral com­mit­tee to sup­port the ‘No’ against Ra­joy and the PP,” Idoia Men­dia, head of the Basque so­cial­ists, whose po­si­tion is shared by their Cata­lan col­leagues, said as he ar­rived at the party’s head­quar­ters. Out­side around 15 peo­ple braved the rain to voice their op­po­si­tion to Ra­joy. “This is not the PP head­quar­ters,” they chanted.

But For Guillermo Fer­nan­dez Vara, pres­i­dent of the western Ex­tremadura re­gion and who helped bring down Sanchez, “the worst re­sults in our re­cent demo­cratic his­tory (mean) the PSOE finds it­self in a key sit­u­a­tion.” Writ­ing in his blog, he ar­gued that only the So­cial­ists could en­able a gov­ern­ment to be formed. After that, it could mount a “true op­po­si­tion” once Ra­joy was back in power, he wrote.

So­cial­ists lost ‘cred­i­bil­ity’

By the be­gin­ning of Novem­ber, Spain should fi­nally get a gov­ern­ment at a sen­si­tive time as the coun­try re­cov­ers from a dev­as­tat­ing eco­nomic cri­sis. But with only 137 of the 350 seats in par­lia­ment, the PP’s gov­ern­ment would be weak. It would face op­po­si­tion not only from the So­cial­ists but also two up­start par­ties-the far-left Unidos Pode­mos and cen­trist Ci­u­dadanos.

Their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the last two elec­tions put an end to Spain’s tra­di­tional two-party sys­tem. The So­cial­ists, mean­while, run the risk of alien­at­ing grass­roots mem­bers staunchly op­posed to the cor­rup­tion-tainted PP. In a week­end in­ter­view with on­line daily El Es­panol, So­cial­ist law­maker Su­sana Sumelzo said the party would “un­doubt­edly” do badly in fu­ture elec­tions and had lost cred­i­bil­ity among vot­ers. “It’s not just be­cause of the ab­sten­tion but also be­cause of the shame­ful spectacle that the PSOE has pre­sented in the past days,” she said. “I pre­dict that in the medium and long-term, it will be very com­pli­cated. We will have to work a huge amount to get our cred­i­bil­ity back.” — AFP

MADRID: A PSOE sup­porter holds plac­ards read­ing “17 Ju­das out” “PSOE with­out chiefs” out­side the Span­ish So­cial­ist Party (PSOE) head­quar­ters dur­ing an ex­tra­or­di­nary meet­ing of the PSOE Fed­eral Com­mit­tee. — AFP

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