Home Politics Spain’s Feijoo loses parliamentary vote to become PM

Spain’s Feijoo loses parliamentary vote to become PM

Alberto Nunez-Feijoo saw his bid to become Spain's next prime minister rejected by parliament on Wednesday, with the right-wing opposition leader lacking the support to pass a key vote.

The result, which saw 172 votes in favour to 178 against, sets in motion a two-month countdown to new elections, unless outgoing Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez can garner sufficient support to pass an identical vote to be inaugurated as premier.

Sanchez, who has repeatedly demonstrated his capacity for political survival, is confident he will be returned to power with the support of the far left along with Basque and Catalan regional parties.

Despite winning the most votes in July’s inconclusive election, Feijoo on Wednesday was only able to muster the support of 172 lawmakers from his right-wing Popular Party (PP), the far-right Vox and two other tiny factions.

To be inaugurated as prime minister, he needed a majority of 176 in the 350-seat parliament.

He was unable to garner the necessary support due to his alliance with Vox, whose extreme positions have left the PP almost totally alienated.

Feijoo will also face a second vote on Friday that requires a simple majority of more votes in favour than against. But there too, he has little to no chance of winning sufficient support.

Next week, King Felipe VI is expected to task Sanchez with forming a government although the date for a new investiture vote has yet to be set. If he too fails, Spain will be forced to hold elections, most likely in January.

‘Selling Spain down the river’

People’s Party (PP) President Alberto Nunez Feijoo (R) shakes hands with Spanish acting Prime Minister and Socialist Party (PSOE) Secretary General Pedro Sanchez prior to holding a meeting at the Congress of Deputies in Madrid, on August 30, 2023. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

Acutely aware of his lack of support, Feijoo used his parliamentary address on Tuesday to launch a blistering attack on Sanchez over his planned deal with a hardline Catalan separatist party cast in the role of kingmaker.

In exchange for its support, the separatist JxCat wants an amnesty for those facing legal action over the failed 2017 Catalan separatist bid, including for its leader Carles Puigdemont who led the independence drive then fled Spain to avoid prosecution.

In concluding the debate ahead of the vote, Feijoo lashed out at Sanchez for giving in to “blackmail by those who do not believe in Spain”.

“Whether Sanchez will end up being prime minister or not depends entirely on what Puigdemont wants,” Feijoo had said on Tuesday, referring to a man viewed by the Spanish right as public enemy number one.

“What the pro-independence movement is proposing… is a direct attack on the essential democratic values of our country.”

And his deputy Cuca Gamarra also attacked Sanchez for being “ready to sell Spain down the river at any price purely to get something that’s exclusively in his own interest”.

On Sunday, around 40,000 flag-waving protesters hit the streets of Madrid to denounce JxCat’s amnesty demand, which Feijoo blasted as tantamount to “blackmail”.

Approving an amnesty to stay in power would be dangerous for Sanchez as it is not only a red line for the right but also for elements within his own Socialist Party.

Although Sanchez’s government in 2021 pardoned around a dozen Catalan separatist leaders jailed over the failed secession bid, he has yet to speak publicly about the amnesty issue, saying only he would be “faithful to the policy of normalisation in Catalonia”.

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