Spain on verge of end­ing 10-month po­lit­i­cal cri­sis

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Spain turns the page on a 10month po­lit­i­cal cri­sis yes­ter­day as law­mak­ers ready to vote the con­ser­va­tives back in power, al­though at the head of a gov­ern­ment with un­prece­dented op­po­si­tion. Aided by di­vi­sions among his ri­vals, Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy is widely ex­pected to win a crunch par­lia­men­tary con­fi­dence vote yes­ter­day evening which will see him of­fi­cially reap­pointed as Span­ish leader.

In a sign of how deep the di­vi­sions run, for­mer So­cial­ist chief Pe­dro Sanchez, a staunch op­po­nent of Ra­joy who was ousted in a party re­bel­lion this month, an­nounced he was quit­ting par­lia­ment just hours be­fore the vote in a tear­ful me­dia ap­pear­ance. At the same time, pro­test­ers un­happy about cor­rup­tion and sweep­ing spend­ing cuts dur­ing Ra­joy’s first term are set to take to the streets, fear­ing his new gov­ern­ment will be more of the same.

So­cial­ists torn apart

Party lead­ers this week ap­peared far from con­cil­ia­tory as the con­fi­dence vote neared and came out fight­ing, crit­i­cis­ing Ra­joy and each other just as they did over 10 months as the coun­try went through two in­con­clu­sive elec­tions. This un­sta­ble pe­riod saw Spain go from ju­bi­lant hope af­ter polls last De­cem­ber ended the two-party sys­tem as mil­lions voted for two up­start par­ties, to dis­il­lu­sion fol­low­ing re­peat polls in June that yielded sim­i­lar in­con­clu­sive re­sults.

Ra­joy’s Pop­u­lar Party (PP) won both elec­tions but with­out enough par­lia­men­tary seats to gov­ern alone. As no po­lit­i­cal group­ing was able to agree on a vi­able coali­tion, Spain looked set for un­prece­dented third elec­tions in less than a year. This all changed last week­end when the So­cial­ists swal­lowed a bit­ter pill and opted to ab­stain in yes­ter­day’s con­fi­dence vote to avoid more polls, af­ter weeks of bit­ter in-fight­ing that saw Sanchez ousted as leader.

This gives Ra­joy, the of­fi­cial prime min­is­te­rial can­di­date, enough trac­tion to see him through the vote. In re­tal­i­a­tion, Sanchez an­nounced yes­ter­day he had re­signed as law­maker, un­able to choose be­tween go­ing against his prin­ci­ples and ab­stain­ing, or go­ing against his party and vot­ing no to Ra­joy. In an an­nounce­ment just hours be­fore the vote, the 44-year-old em­pha­sised “how painful the de­ci­sion was” be­fore break­ing down and chok­ing back tears.

‘Tur­bu­lent’ term

Un­like when he came to power in 2011 with an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity, Ra­joy’s party will only have 137 out of 350 seats in par­lia­ment and will face huge op­po­si­tion, forc­ing him to ne­go­ti­ate ev­ery bill. First on his list will be a 2017 bud­get, which may need at least five bil­lion eu­ros ($5.5 bil­lion) in spend­ing cuts to re­duce the deficit un­der EU pres­sure. But this is likely to face stiff op­po­si­tion both in par­lia­ment and on the street, and al­ready Ra­joy’s ri­vals have pledged to vote against it. Ra­joy, mean­while, has called on the op­po­si­tion to let him gov­ern ef­fec­tively, point­ing to the re­turn to growth and drop in un­em­ploy­ment un­der his watch af­ter a dev­as­tat­ing eco­nomic cri­sis, and the ne­ces­sity to keep this go­ing. Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Pablo Si­mon said there was “no doubt” his term in of­fice would be the most “tur­bu­lent” ever in Spain and could prompt Ra­joy to call early elec­tions if he keeps hit­ting brick walls. But he pre­dicted Ra­joy may not have quite as hard a ride as ex­pected. The So­cial­ists, for one, will need time to re­build in the op­po­si­tion and will not want early elec­tions, know­ing they would fare badly af­ter their very pub­lic break­down. The PP also has a ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate, and may be able to form pacts with smaller par­ties in the lower house to see laws through, Si­mon added. — AFP

CALAIS: Young mi­grants walk through the de­bris of the “Jun­gle” mi­grant camp in Calais, north­ern France, on Oc­to­ber 29, 2016, dur­ing a mas­sive op­er­a­tion to clear the squalid set­tle­ment where 6,000-8,000 peo­ple have been liv­ing in dire con­di­tions. — AFP

MADRID: For­mer leader of the Span­ish So­cial­ist Party (PSOE), Pe­dro Sanchez leaves a press con­fer­ence an­nounc­ing his res­ig­na­tion as par­lia­ment deputy, as law­mak­ers ready to vote the con­ser­va­tive Pop­u­lar party back in power at the Span­ish Con­gress. — AFP

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