Spain finally ends long political crisis
SPAIN finally turned the page on a 10-month political crisis as lawmakers voted the conservatives back into power despite bitter divisions.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy won a parliamentary confidence vote, pledging to plough on with his economic policies, despite the opposition blaming austerity in his first term for deepening inequalities.
Mr Rajoy, 61, only won the vote thanks to the abstention of most lawmakers from the Socialist party, which opted to let their arch-rival govern rather than go to third elections in poll-weary Spain.
One hundred and seventy lawmakers voted for Mr Rajoy, with 111 against and 68 Socialists abstaining.
The Socialists’ decision to abstain drew stinging criticism from its rivals including far-left Podemos, and divided the party so seriously that Socialist chief Pedro Sanchez was ousted earlier this month.
Hours before the vote, Mr Sanchez himself gave a tearful statement to the media, announcing he was quitting as a lawmaker so he would not have to abstain and allow Mr Rajoy to govern.
Near parliament, several thousand protesters took to the streets amid a heavy police presence, unhappy about corruption and sweeping spending cuts during Mr Rajoy’s first term, shouting “They don’t represent us”.
Party leaders strongly criticised Mr Rajoy and one another, just as they have done for the past 10 months as the country went through two inconclusive elections.
This unstable period saw Spain go from jubilation – after polls last December ended the two-party hold on power as millions voted for two upstart parties – to disillusionment following polls in June that returned inconclusive results once again.
Mr 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 more elections.
That changed when the Socialists opted to abstain in October 29’s confidence vote after weeks of in-fighting that saw Mr Sanchez ousted.
Unlike when he came to power in 2011 with an absolute majority, Mr Rajoy’s party will only have 137 out of 350 seats in parliament and will face huge opposition, forcing him to negotiate every bill.
Among Mr Rajoy’s priorities will be the 2017 budget, which may need at least 5 billion euros (US$5.5 billion) in spending cuts to reduce the deficit in the face of EU pressure.
But further cuts are likely to face stiff opposition both in parliament and on the street.
He will also face rising separatist sentiment in the northeastern Catalonia region. –
Spain’s interim Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (centre) speaks with journalists after being re-elected during the parliamentary investiture vote at the Spanish Congress (Las Cortes) in Madrid on October 29.