PSOE abstentions enable Rajoy minority gov’t

PP's Mariano Rajoy wins vote of confidence in Conress. Photo: Javier Lizón / El Periódico

• PP’s Mariano Rajoy wins simple 170 majority, will form new government
• Fifteen Socialist deputies break ranks with party and vote ‘No’ to Rajoy

Span’s acting-Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will form the country’s next government, following his election by 170-96 with the help of 68 abstentions from Socialist party (PSOE) deputies in a confidence vote Saturday in the Congress of Deputies, the lower house of Spain’s bicameral parliament.

Rajoy’s bid to form the next government fell short of an absolute majority in the 350-member Congress, the 170-vote total including just 137 votes from his own conservative Partido Popular (PP), 32 from the centre-right Ciudadanos party and 1 from the regional Coalición Canaria (CC). A total of 96 deputies voted against Rajoy, including 71 deputies from the leftwing Unidos Podemos (United We Can) coalition and its regional, plus a handful of regional nationalist parties and 15 Socialists who broke party ranks and braved possible disciplinary action to vote against Rajoy.

The confidence vote in Congress ends 10 months of political deadlock for Spain, but enables Rajoy to form a minority government with only a tenuous hold on power, not having enough votes to pass a federal budget and other key legislation without negotiations and compromise with other parties that have vowed to oppose austerity cuts and overturn other measures passed during the previous Rajoy administration of 2011-2015.

Rajoy’s victory in Congress was tempered by the drama surrounding the breakaway “No” vote of a handful of Socialist deputies who refused to accept the abstention vote mandated by the party’s interim caretaker administration, installed after the ouster by PSOE general secretary Pedro Sánchez in early October. Sánchez himself put the damper on Rajoy’s victory in Congress, announcing at the last minute that he had resigned his seat in Congress, rather than follow the PSOE-mandated abstention to enable a conservative PP government led by Rajoy.

On Monday, Rajoy swore an oath of office administered by Spanish head of state King Felipe VI. He has said he will name the members of his new cabinet on Thursday and they will be sworn in on Friday.

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