SHARE
COPY LINK

POLITICS

EXPLAINED: Why Spain’s far-right Vox party has filed a no-confidence motion

Spain's parliament on Wednesday began debating a no-confidence motion filed by the far-right Vox against the leftwing coalition government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

EXPLAINED: Why Spain's far-right Vox party has filed a no-confidence motion

For two days the Congress proceedings are set to be dominated by Vox’s much anticipated ‘motion of censure’ against the government. 

A looming threat throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, party leader Santiago Abascal repeatedly dangled it over the government during the crisis and has now finally brought the motion – the Spanish equivalent of a vote of no confidence – to the House of Deputies floor on Thursday. 

But what is a motion of censure? Why are Vox doing this now, amidst the second wave of a global pandemic? And what would it achieve, who would support it, and is there any realistic chance of it passing?

What is a moción de censura?

The Spanish Constitution of 1978 allows for motions of no confidence against the government if it is supported by one-tenth of the Congress of Deputies. It is a parliamentary instrument through which Congress can force the resignation of the president. It is considered a “constructive” constitutional proposal because the vote, and possible change of government, must be predicated on the basis of an alternative candidate to lead a new government. 

There have been just four motions of censure in Spanish democratic history until now. The fourth, and only successful motion, was led by current Prime Minister and PSOE leader Pedro Sanchez against the PP government of Mariano Rajoy on the back of political momentum from a cash-for-contracts corruption case embroiling the government.

The motion installed Sanchez as Prime Minister and he has faced hostility from the right, both PP and Vox, since that day. 

What are the legislative requirements?

The motion must be supported initially by at least 10 percent of the deputies (a minimum of 35). This censure vote has already been supported by the 52 deputies of Vox and includes Abascal as the alternative candidate for the Presidency. 

Any motion against the government must outline its reasons for doing so. According to the text sent by Vox, they are:

1) “From the constitution of the current communist social government through fraud against the Spanish electorate and its dependence on the separatist political forces”

2) “From the criminal management of the pandemic of disease due to coronavirus”

3) “Of the democratic degeneration and the assault on the counterpowers called to limit the Executive Power ”

4)“ Of the unconstitutional curtailment of the rights and freedoms of the Spanish people ”.

The motion will be debated throughout Wednesday and Thursday, with expected rights of reply by both Sanchez today, and Podemos leader and Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias on Thursday. 

Is it likely to pass?

Simply put: no. Vox has only the votes of its own 52 deputies. No other parliamentary group has supported the motion, including even PP. For the vote to pass, it needs an absolute majority of at least 176 deputies; numerically this would mean it needs, in addition to its own 52 deputies, the votes of all 88 PP deputies, 10 Ciudadanos, 2 Navarra Suma deputies and a smattering of support from various ERC, JxCAT and PNV representatives.

Both politically and legislatively speaking, this seems an impossible task.

There has been confusion, however, in recent weeks, as to whether PP would support the motion or not, and it was reported that PP deputies arrived for the first of the Congressional sessions this morning still unsure how they would vote – whether to abstain or vote against the motion – or even how leader Pablo Casado felt about the issue.

“They have not told anything to the deputies,” said one well known MP.

During the course of Thursday’s debate, however, it has emerged that PP will not support the motion and vote against it. Speaking on the Congress floor, PP Secretary-General García Egea branded the move “not a motion of censure, [but] a joke.” 

“Its own uselessness makes it a circus show. It gives Sánchez a magnificent setting to show off,” he added, suggesting the failed motion would do nothing but strengthen the government.

Why are Vox filing the motion?

 

Although Vox and Abascal know the move will ultimately fail, and limit their ability to present motions to Congress for the rest of the year, the motion is the natural continuation of its populist opportunism; the culmination of months of threats and attacks on the government throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Abascal first threatened a motion of censure some months ago. 

Vox and Abascal thrive on media coverage, and two days of nationally televised debates give him the chance to present himself as Spain’s true opposition party leader, to politically outmanoeuvre PP from the right and, they hope, give them a polling boost amid such political uncertainty.

Indeed, the motion of censure is perhaps best understood, politically speaking, not as a vote against the government but as a move against PP and an attempt to solidify support among more naturally centre-right voters.

In this sense it is an entirely performative gesture; the motion allows Abascal the time to project himself as a leader in waiting, bypass a comparatively inactive PP, and hit on all of his recurring populist talking points on national television.

During the debate the PP's García Egea criticised the “political opportunism” of Vox, suggesting the motion provides “a magnificent smokescreen for Pedro Sánchez… it is a shame that we are not talking about what really matters to the Spanish. Some see politics as a spectacle, the PP sees it as a solution,” he said.

The failed motion only “strengthens and polarises” the country, he added. 

Yet that is exactly what Vox seeks to do, thriving in uncertainty and instability; the motion of censure, sure to fail tomorrow, is political gamesmanship and an attempt by Abascal to delegitimise PP and portray Vox as the main opposition party in Spain.

The only surety of the move is that the debate over the couple of days will intensify, that it gives Vox a louder voice, it hopes, on the centre-right, and positions itself as a player in the forthcoming months of instability as Spain attempts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. 


 

Pedro Sanchez is currently defending his government’s record on COVID-19, and has urged PP not to side with the far-right and reject the motion of censure. The final vote is expected sometime tomorrow afternoon. 

By Conor Patrick Faulkner

READ MORE

 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

ENERGY

Air-con, ties and lights: How Europe plans to save energy and get through winter without blackouts

In the face of possible energy shortages due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, countries around Europe are taking action to cut their energy use and ensure that the lights remain on this winter. Here's a look at some of the rules and recommendations that governments are introducing.

Air-con, ties and lights: How Europe plans to save energy and get through winter without blackouts

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ensuing sanctions has seen energy prices soar, while the Russian leader is also threatening to cut off gas supplies to the west in retaliation for the sanctions.

All this means that countries around Europe face a difficult winter and the prospect of energy shortages – so many are already taking action to stockpile gas and cut energy usage.

Here’s a roundup of what actions are being taken. 

Germany

Heavily dependant on Russian gas, Germany is already feeling the effects of the energy squeeze, with many households and businesses turning down the thermostat or dimming the lights as gas storage facilities are being filled at a slower pace.

RulesEarly in July, Germany’s lower house of parliament or Bundestag passed a plan to turn off the hot water in its offices and keep the air temperature no higher than 20C in the winter. This limit is merely recommended for households.

However homeowners will not be allowed to heat private pools with gas “this winter”, according to government plans, while a regulation requiring minimum temperatures in rented homes is expected to be suspended “so that tenants who want to save energy and turn down the heating are allowed to do so”.

As well as national rules, many German cities have also adopted their own energy-savings plans.

The Bavarian city of Augsburg, for example, has turned off its fountains, dimmed the facades of public buildings at night and is debating switching off some under-used traffic lights – and a housing cooperative in Dresden made national headlines when it announced it would limit hot water to certain times of day.

With certain exceptions, public buildings in Berlin will not have heating from April to the end of September each year, with room temperatures limited to a maximum of 20C for the rest of the year. In areas such as warehouses, technical rooms, corridors, the maximum will range from 10 to 15C.

Private enterprise has been getting in on the act too – Vonovia, Germany’s largest property group, plans to limit the temperature in its 350,000 homes to a maximum of 17C at night.

The head of consumer chemicals group Henkel has said that work-from-home practices may be reintroduced, while chemicals giant BASF has raised the possibility of putting its employees on furlough.

Recommendations – Economy Minister Robert Habeck has made headlines for extolling the virtues of shorter, colder showers.

France

France has an ambitious plan to cut its energy usage by 10 percent within two years and a government plan for sobriété énergétique (energy sobriety) is expected by September.

In the meantime, some rules have already been put in place while there are also some official recommendations. The general principle is that changes will be obligatory for government buildings and businesses, but voluntary for private households. 

Rules – In 2013, a law obliging businesses to switch off outside lights by 1am came into force. That deadline may be brought forward and towns and villages may have to switch off streetlights earlier – some areas have already taken this decision.

Shops that have air conditioning may not leave their doors open, so that less energy is lost.

Limits have been suggested for heating and air conditioning – keep heating to a maximum of 19C and air con to a minimum of 26C at the height of summer. The Prime Minister says she ‘expects’ government buildings to show an example and adhere to these, but they are voluntary for households.

Meanwhile, the heads of large supermarket chains in France have made a voluntary agreement for all stores to employ energy-saving techniques, such as turning off electric signs at closing times, reducing light usage, and managing store temperatures, from October 15th this year. They will also cut lighting by half before opening time, and by 30 percent during “critical consumption periods”.

Additionally, they will “cut off air renewal at night” and “lower the temperature in outlets to 17C this autumn and winter, if requested by a regulatory authority”.

Recommendations – The government has urged individuals to adopt energy-saving practices – by switching off wifi routers when on holiday, turning off lights, unplugging electric appliances when not in use, and lowering the air-con.

France’s energy transition minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher has urged people to keep heating to a maximum of 19C and air con to a minimum of 26C at the height of summer.

Spain

Spain has introduced perhaps the most wide-ranging set of rules in its new energy-saving bill, which comes into force on August 10th.

Public buildings as well as shops, restaurants, cafés, supermarkets, transport hubs and cultural spaces must:

  • Set heating and cooling temperatures to limits of 19C and 27C respectively;
  • Install doors that automatically close by September 30th to prevent energy waste, as can happen with regular doors that are left open;
  • Lights in shop windows must be turned off by 10pm;
  • Posters must be put up to explain the energy saving measures in every building or establishment, and thermometers must be displayed to show the temperature and humidity of the room.

READ ALSO: Is it realistic for Spain to set the air con limit at 27C during summer?

Recommendations – the above rules do not apply to private homes, but it is recommended to follow the heating and cooling limits.

Meanwhile, working from home is recommended for large companies and public administration buildings to help “save on the displacement and thermal consumption of buildings”, Spain’s Minister for Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera said.

And have you thought about your outfit? Here’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez explaining why he’s ditching his tie to stay a little bit cooler.

Italy

Back in April the Italian government approved limits on the use of air conditioning in public offices and schools from May 1st, to save energy and wean itself off reliance on Russian gas imports.

At the time Ministers said that Italy would be able to end its reliance on Russian gas within 18 months, after previously giving a timeframe of at least two years.

Rules – In public buildings, energy use will be measured in individual rooms of each building – the temperature must not exceed 19C in winter and cannot be any lower than 27C in summer, with a margin of tolerance of two degrees – meaning the lowest allowed temperature is actually 25C.

Fines for non-compliance with the rules are said to range from €500 to €3,000. The measure does not currently apply to clinics, hospitals and nursing homes.

Italy has long had rules in place limiting the usage of heating in homes and public buildings during winter. Northern and mountainous areas are allowed to switch on the heat in October, while some parts of the south can’t turn up the dial until December.

Even then, there are limits on how long you’re allowed to keep the central heating on each day, ranging from six hours in the warmest parts of the country to 14 hours in chillier regions.

And there are rules on maximum temperatures – private homes, offices and schools should not be heated to more than 20C, with a 2C tolerance. Meanwhile factories and workshops should generally be kept at 18C.

Austria

The Austrian government has said it will work on measures to encourage energy saving among households and businesses while putting a cap on electricity prices.

The aim is to “support the Austrian population to ensure unaffordable energy supply for a certain basic need”, according to a government statement. 

The government didn’t give details on the price cap but said that conditions would be developed by the end of August.

Sweden

Sweden has announced no new measures in response to the energy crisis, but already has certain limits in place. 

Many Swedish apartment buildings and housing cooperatives have a strict maximum heating limit of 21C indoors and in some buildings radiators have a limiter on them so they cannot be turned too high.

In Denmark, too, the government has introduced no specific new measures.

Switzerland

In common with other countries, Switzerland is at risk of a gas shortage this winter and the government has warned that restrictions on consumption during the coldest months cannot be excluded.

Nearly half of its annual supply is of Russian origin. “We are not an island, so the war in Ukraine and the global energy crisis also affect Switzerland,” Energy Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said at the end of June. “In this context, there is no certainty about what awaits us.”

The possibility that Swiss households will have to turn down the thermostat this winter is very real. 

In the event of an actual shortage, “consumption restrictions may be ordered, for example restrictions on the heating of unoccupied buildings. The switching to biofuel could be imposed by ordinance”, Economy Minister Guy Parmelin has said.

If shortages persist, a quota system would be implemented – with households and essential services, such as hospitals, among the last to be affected.

But Parmelin insisted, “the role of the State is to guarantee a good supply of gas and electricity to the country. We want at all costs to avoid a disruption in supply, which would have a strong impact on businesses and  would then lead to an economic crisis”.

UK

Less reliant on Russian gas because of its own gas reserves, the UK is currently less worried about supply than price – soaring utility bills may force many households into poverty this winter, campaigners have warned.

Households in the UK will start receiving a discount worth a total £400 (€478) off their energy bills from October, the British government has said, with the support package rises to £1,200 (€1,430) for the poorest households.

A recent report by National Grid said there was little chance of the lights going out in the UK this winter – though experts have warned that a severe cold spell could prompt action, such as shutdowns of non-critical factory operations, to ensure homes can be heated.

SHOW COMMENTS