• No-confidence move against Rajoy defeated in 170-82 vote, 97 abstentions
• Podemos, PSOE appear open to future cooperation to remove Rajoy from office
Spain’s Congress of Deputies on Wednesday rejected a motion of no confidence against Spanish President Mariano Rajoy put forward by leftwing coalition Unidos Podemos (United We Can), with 170 deputies voting against the motion and 97 abstaining. Only Unidos Podemos, Valencia’s Coalició Compromís (Commitment Coalition), Catalonia’s Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC, Republican Left of Catalonia) and the Basque Country’s EH Bildu cast the 82 votes in favor of the motion, far short of the 176 votes that would have been necessary to remove Rajoy from power.
If successful, the censure motion would have seen Podemos anti-austerity party leader Pablo Iglesias take over from Rajoy as Spain’s president. The failure of the parliamentary move by Unidos Podemos was all but guaranteed last week after the Socialist party (PSOE), the lead opposition party in the lower house of Spain’s parliament, announced its deputies would abstain from casting their 84 votes either for or against.
In Wednesday’s vote, the PSOE was joined in abstaining by deputies representing the Partido Nacionalista Vasco (PNV), Catalonia’s Partit Demòcrata Europeu Català (PDeCAT, formerly Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya) and Nueva Canarias. Joining Rajoy’s conservative governing Partido Popular (PP) in voting against the motion were deputies from centre-right party Ciudadanos, plus regional allies Coalición Canaria (CC), Foro Asturias (Asturias Forum) and the Unión del Pueblo Navarro (Navarrese People’s Union).
Two days of acriminious debate prior to Wednesday’s vote was marked by charges, counter-charges and insults hurled back and forth between speakers for Unidos Podemos, the PP and Ciudadanos, with PSOE congressional spokesperson José Luis Ábalos joining Iglesias’ criticism of the governing party over charges of corruption and illegal campaign finance currently making their way through the Spanish courts.
Iglesias’ harsh criticism of Rajoy and the PP contrasted markedly with criticism the Podemos leader levelled at the Socialists, which by comparison was relatively mild. Only once did the Podemos leader provoke a sharp response from Ábalos after Iglesias criticised several Socialist deputies by name as not having been sufficiently leftwing in their position vis a vis the Rajoy government.
Despite the PSOE’s abstention having guaranteed the defeat of the Unidos Podemos motion, the door to cooperation on a future motion of censure against Rajoy appeared to have been left open when both Ábalos and Iglesias told reporters after the vote that they believed the two rival leftwing parties shared a common desire to remove Rajoy from office and implied there are grounds for the two to work together toward that end.