• Spain's news in English
Spain still doesn't have a govt. So what happens now?
Acting Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy. Photo: AFP

Spain still doesn't have a govt. So what happens now?

The Local · 9 Mar 2016, 09:05

Published: 08 Mar 2016 15:44 GMT+01:00
Updated: 09 Mar 2016 09:05 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

There appears to be little chance of Spain’s political stalemate being broken any time soon. Just listen to the divisive tone of parliamentary debates held in the first week of March – two-and-a-half-months after a national election failed to deliver a government.

Pedro Sánchez, leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) had sought to form a coalition government with the centre-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) Party. He secured the backing of his own party and his proposed coalition partner but failed to get enough support from other MPs following heated debate in the chamber.

In the end, he gathered just 131 votes – well short of the simple majority required to pass a vote in the 350-seat parliament. Crucially, the 69 deputies from left-wing collective Podemos blocked Sánchez’s bid to become prime minister by voting against him.

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias clashed with the Socialists during the debate. Photo: AFP

This is the first time in Spain’s 40 years as a democracy that a candidate standing for prime minister has failed to win the necessary parliamentary support. It now seems likely that fresh elections will be held in June. The only other option would be for the country’s politicians to display a capacity for compromise that has so far evaded them.

Why the stalemate?

At first glance, it’s surprising that the largest party, Mariano Rajoy’s Partido Popular (PP), has not been able to piece together a coalition with smaller party Ciudadanos.

Rajoy was prime minister between 2011 and 2015 and has been acting as a caretaker in the role since the December election. Together the two parties have 163 seats – just 13 short of the 176 needed for an overall majority.

In the past, this shortfall might have been made good by calling on the support of the centre-right Catalan nationalists. They provided vital backing to minority PSOE and Popular Party governments in the 1990s, for example.

But those same Catalan nationalists have started to push so hard for independence from Spain that they cannot be considered acceptable allies for any of the parties hoping to form a Spanish government.

A PP-Ciudadanos coalition has also been scuppered by the antipathy displayed by Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera towards Rajoy. It now looks like Rajoy’s resignation would be a prerequisite of any future understanding between the two parties.

A seemingly never-ending stream of corruption allegations, implicating senior members of the PP, up to and including Rajoy himself, has also deterred other parties from seeking an agreement with the party.

Rajoy has nevertheless indicated that he has no intention of stepping down. For the time being, he insists that being the leader of the largest party entitles him to stay on as caretaker prime minister, or at the head of a “grand coalition” of the PP, the PSOE and Ciudadanos.

What now? 

The PP has 123 seats in parliament, which makes it difficult for any of the other parties to form a coalition government. As has been noted, Podemos’s willingness to vote alongside the PP against a PSOE-Ciudadanos coalition was sufficient to put an end to that initiative.

The obvious alternative is therefore a coalition of the left, the option favoured by Podemos. If the PSOE was able to put together a deal with Podemos and United Left (IU), it would have 161 seats. That would still be short of the 176 needed for an overall majority but would make a minority administration possible. But Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias is hostile towards doing a deal with the PSOE. At any rate, Podemos’s insistence that a referendum on Catalan independence be included in any coalition agreement effectively renders any accord between Sánchez and Iglesias impossible.

Sánchez, for his part, maintains that a cross-party deal of left and right – excluding the PP – is the only means of forming a viable government.

Sánchez and his socialist deputies during the debate. Photo: AFP

And so the deadlock continues. Either the parties form a government within the next two months, and by 2 May at the very latest, or new elections will have to take place on 26 June. Based on their failure so far to put their differences aside, it seems unlikely that a government will be formed in that time.

Story continues below…

Even then, polling suggests that fresh elections won’t break the deadlock either. It currently looks as though the PSOE will once again win fewer seats than the PP. It will, however, be interesting to see if voters reward Ciudadanos with greater support after its attempts to form a government with the PSOE. Similarly, Podemos could be punished by the electorate for blocking a government from being formed.

Spain is facing an uncertain future. The electorate has opted for change – albeit on the basis of a spectacularly fragmented set of general election results – but the bitter divisions between the major parties are preventing that change from taking place.

The Conversation

Paul Kennedy, Lecturer in Spanish and European Studies, University of Bath

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.es)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Brit 'paedo' held on Costa del Sol after Most Wanted appeal

One of Britain's most wanted fugitives was arrested on the Costa Del Sol following a tip-off from an expat just hours after his face appeared on a public appeal.

Spain's parliament approves deficit reduction measures
Photo: Images Money/Flickr

Spanish lawmakers approved on Thursday measures to reduce the public deficit and keep it under the target agreed with the European Union.

'Cubism and War' show opens at Barcelona Picasso Museum
Pablo Picasso Harlequin and Woman with a Necklace. Photo: MP

Barcelona's Picasso Museum unveiled an exhibition on "Cubism and War" on Thursday depicting how one of the most influential artistic styles of the 20th century survived the First World War.

Why this bionic limb pioneer doesn't believe in disability
Hugh Herr has been award Spain's top science prize. Photo: FPA

The Local speaks to Hugh Herr on winning Spain's top science prize and how being an amputee doesn't make him disabled.

Dine in the buff at Spain's first nudist restaurant
A buffet of organic food will be served on "human tables". Photo: Innato / Facebook

Spain's first naked dining experience is to arrive on the island of Tenerife following the success of a similar venture in London.

Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Photo: AFP

Spain's Constitutional Court on Thursday cancelled a bullfighting ban in Catalonia in what is likely to exacerbate tensions between Madrid and the separatist region, and between animal activists and fans of the tradition.

Out of the dark: Five years on from Eta ceasefire
Eta members made a ceasefire declaration in January, 2011. Photo: Gara / AFP

Five years after armed separatist group Eta declared a permanent ceasefire, Basque journalist Alberto Letona is still wondering when the dialogue will begin.

Hunt for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Call Crimestoppers if you recognize these faces.

These fugitives from British justice are thought to be hiding out in Spain. Do you recognize anyone?

Eta 'not dead' but Spain focus moves onto jihadism
Archive photo of a pro-mural in the Basque Country. Photo: AFP

Five years after Eta quit violence, the Basque separatist group has yet to dissolve but it poses little threat and authorities have shifted their focus to fight jihadists, says Spain's chief anti-terrorism prosecutor.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
Forgotten Voices: What Brits in Spain think about Brexit
One dead and 14 injured in blast at Spanish resort
Game of Thrones want extras 'with muscles' to film in Spain
Thousands march in Madrid to push for bullfighting ban
jobs available