Feijóo's bid to be Spain's PM after parliament vote is doomed - what will happen next?

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Feijóo's bid to be Spain's PM after parliament vote is doomed - what will happen next?
The candidate of conservative Partido Popular (PP - People's Party) Alberto Núñez Feijóo gestures during a press conference after meeting with the King as part of the round of consultations with political representatives aiming at proposing a candidate for the investiture, at the Congress of Deputies in Madrid on August 22, 2023. (Photo by Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP)

The head of the conservative PP will face a parliamentary vote to become prime minister in September even though he lacks the necessary support in the assembly. What will happen next in Spain's race to form a government?


Parliament speaker Francina Armengol said Wednesday the debate on PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo's bid to form a new government will start on September 26th and culminate in a vote the following day.

"I believe that this date gives more than enough time for the candidate to carry out the appropriate negotiations with the representatives of the different political formations," she said a day after Spain's King Felipe VI nominated Feijóo to try to form a government following an inconclusive July general election.

The PP won the most seats but neither it nor acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's Socialists emerged with a clear path to achieve the 176-seat majority needed to win an investiture vote and take office.

On the face of it, Feijóo will fall short as his PP has 137 parliamentary seats while potential allies far-right Vox and two small regional parties only have 35 between them.

If pooled, those would give a PP-led coalition only 172 votes - four short.

The PP has in the past reached deals with Catalan and Basque separatist parties but its alliance with Vox - which is fiercely opposed to separatism - means they are not an option this time around.

The party "has very little chance" since it lacks options for enough support, said Moisés Ruíz, a professor at the European University, echoing the view of many analysts.

Even though he will likely fail, Feijóo wants to face an investiture vote to "not disappoint his voters" and "in an attempt to strengthen his leadership" within the right, he told AFP.


'Difficult negotiations'

If Feijóo fails to get a majority during a first investiture vote, he will face a second vote where just a simple majority of more yes than no votes are needed.

If he loses again, the king must pick a new candidate -- most likely Sánchez, whose party finished second.

Sánchez wants to return at the head of a "progressive" government of centre and radical left, and insists he could garner more votes than Feijóo.

He has the support of far-left formation Sumar and could cobble together a majority if he wins support from smaller regional parties, including Basque and Catalan pro-independence formations.

But Catalan separatist parties have set a high bar for their support, calling for a sweeping amnesty for hundreds of activists facing legal action for their role in a failed 2017 secession bid and the right to hold an independence referendum.

Analysts said Feijóo getting the first chance to form a government will give Sanchez more time to negotiate with other parties to win their support.

"It is the best scenario for Sánchez… because he is facing very difficult negotiations," Paloma Román, a political scientist at Madrid's Complutense University, told AFP.


'Confusion and complexities'

Sánchez's most difficult potential partner is hardline Catalan separatist party JxCat, led by Carles Puigdemont who is in exile in Belgium.

Puigdemont headed the regional government of Catalonia when it staged a referendum banned by Madrid on October 1st, 2017, which was followed by a short-lived declaration of independence. He fled Spain shortly after to avoid prosecution.

Sánchez managed to secure enough support from other parties -- including JxCat -- to elect Armengol as parliament speaker last week.

"If there is someone who know show to move in this time of political confusion and complexities it is Pedro Sanchez," said Ruiz.

Sanchez governed in a coalition with far-left party Podemos -- now part of Sumar -- since 2020 and has secured the support of separatist parties to pass several laws.

If no candidate secures a majority within two months of the first investiture vote, new elections have to be called, which has happened with elections in both 2015 and 2019.


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