Spain’s Socialists refuse to go easy on Rajoy once in power

Spain's Socialists may have reluctantly decided to let Mariano Rajoy govern again but they will not go easy on the acting conservative premier once he re-takes power, they warned on Thursday.

Spain's Socialists refuse to go easy on Rajoy once in power
Photo: AFP

“You don't have our trust, nor do you have our support,” Antonio Hernando, the Socialists' parliamentary spokesman, told Rajoy as he addressed lawmakers.    

In a taste of things to come, Hernando blasted the acting prime minister's first term track record in a bitter debate held before Rajoy submitted himself to a preliminary, symbolic parliamentary confidence vote.

As expected, Rajoy lost this vote and he will go through a second, final and decisive vote at the weekend which he will likely win thanks to a decision by the Socialists to abstain.

The Socialists have defended this decision by saying they are helping unblock the political impasse in Spain, which has remained without a fully-functioning government for 10 months after two inconclusive elections.   

“There is no reason to maintain the political blockage and take Spaniards to new elections,” Hernando said.

“Our abstention on Saturday will allow you to form a government, but it is not support for your government or your policies,” he told Rajoy.    

Support will be in short supply when Rajoy takes power next week at the head of a minority government, a far cry from 2011 when his Popular Party won an absolute majority.

With just 137 seats out of 350 in parliament, his party will face huge opposition and Thursday's bitter debate reflected this as Rajoy came out fighting and his rivals criticised him.

Pablo Iglesias, the head of far-left Podemos, which aspires to replace the Socialists as the main opposition force, also warned his own party would not “fall into line.”

“We are not a left-wing force that fits the mould… we want a different way of doing things and want to change things,” he said.    

Rajoy, meanwhile, called on opposition parties to try to agree on crucial measures such as the 2017 budget, as Spain works to reduce its deficit under EU scrutiny.

“Demonising your enemy is not credible, it doesn't work,” he told lawmakers.    “Not having a government is as bad as having a government that can't govern,” he said.

“Without a budget, by not complying with our agreements with the European Union, we run the serious risk that Spain will experience a sterile four-year term.”

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What the PP’s landslide win in Andalusia means for Spain’s ruling Socialists

A resounding win by Spain's conservative Popular Party in a weekend regional election in Andalusia appears to have boosted its chances in national elections next year and weakened Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

What the PP's landslide win in Andalusia means for Spain's ruling Socialists

The Popular Party (PP) secured 58 seats in Sunday’s election in Spain’s most populous region — three more than the 55 needed for an absolute majority. That constitutes its best-ever result in the longstanding Socialist stronghold.

The Socialists won 30 seats, their worst-ever result in Andalusia. It governed there without interruption between 1982 and 2018, when it was ousted from power by a coalition between the PP and centre-right Ciudadanos.

This was the Socialists’ third consecutive regional election loss to the PP after votes in Madrid in May 2021 and Castilla y Leon in February.

Sanchez’s government has been struggling to deal with the economic fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has fuelled inflation worldwide, especially through increasing energy prices.

Socialist party officials argued the results of a regional election “can’t be extrapolated” nationally.

But in an editorial, centre-left daily El Pais said no one can deny the gulf in the election scores obtained between the two parties in two of Spain’s most populated regions — Andalusia and Madrid.

This was “more than just a stumble”, it argued.

“This may be a symptom of a change in the political cycle” at the national level, it added. The conservative daily ABC took a similar line.

‘Worn down’

Pablo Simon, political science professor at the Carlos III University, said this “new cycle” in which “the right is stronger” began when the PP won a landslide in a regional election in Madrid in May 2021.

It could culminate with the PP coming out on top in the next national election expected at the end of 2023, he added.

But Cristina Monge, a political scientist at the University of Zaragoza, took a more cautious line.

“The government is worn down after four difficult years due to the pandemic” and the war in Ukraine, which has fuelled inflation, she said.

She refused to “draw a parallel” between Andalusia and Spain, arguing “there is still a lot of time” before the next national election.

Sanchez come to power in June 2018 after former PP prime minister Mariano Rajoy was voted out of office in a no-confidence motion triggered by a long-running corruption scandal.

The PP then suffered its worst-ever results in the next general election in 2019, which the Socialists won.

Sunday’s election was the first since veteran politician Alberto Núñez Feijóo, a moderate, took over as leader of the PP from Pablo Casado following a period of internal party turbulence.

Partido Popular (PP) candidate for the Andalusian regional election Juanma Moreno greets supporters during a meeting following the Andalusian regional elections, in Seville on June 19, 2022. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP)

‘Packing his bags’

“People are fed up with Sanchez,” the PP’s popular regional leader of Madrid, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, said Monday.

“If national elections had been held yesterday, the result would have been the same and today he would be packing his bags,” she added.

Up until now, the far-right Vox party had supported the PP in Andalusia but from outside government.

This time around however, it had said its support would be conditional on getting a share of the government of the southern region.

But the PP’s commanding victory in Andalusia means that is now moot: it no longer has to rely on far-right party Vox to govern.

At the national level, it could be a different story however, said Pablo Simon.

A PP government nationally that did not rely on Vox would be “impossible” due to the fragmentation of parliament, which has several regional and separatist parties.