Socialists oust Rajoy gov’t with ‘no confidence’ vote

PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez (L) and outgoing president Mariano Rajoy during censure debate. Photos: Uly Martín / El País

► Socialist leader Sánchez to be formally sworn in as President on Monday ►
► Censure vote on heels of Gürtel corruption verdict ends Partido Popular rule ►

Spanish President Mariano Rajoy was removed from office Friday after being censured in a 180-169 vote of no confidence led by the Socialist party (PSOE).

The vote was carried with 84 Socialist party votes in Congress, supported by the Unidos PodemosEn Comú PodemEn Marea paralimentary group (67 votes), ERC (9), PDeCAT (8), PNV (5), Compromís (4), EH Bildu (2) and Nueva Canarias (1). As a result of the vote, Socialist party general secretary Pedro Sánchez becomes Spain’s new President, to be officially sworn into office on Monday by Spain’s King Felipe VI.

Rajoy’s ouster comes just one week after the Socialists filed the motion, immediately on the heels of last Thursday’s court ruling in the Gürtel political corruption case, which saw 29 defendants linked to Rajoy’s Partido Popular (PP) sentenced to to a total of 351 years in jail over political kickbacks made in exchange for lucrative public works contracts. In the Gürtel ruling, the presiding judges questioned the credibility of Rajoy’s own testimony during the trial and said millions in kickbacks had been funneled directly into PP party coffers.

The Socialist’s motion to remove Rajoy was immediately welcomed by left-wing rival Podemos, then garnered additional support from progressive and regional nationalist parties across Spain. In Thursday’s censure debate preceding the vote in Congress on Friday morning, the Catalan pro-independence parties Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) and the Partit Demòcrata Europeu Català (PDeCAT) each affirmed they would support the motion in order to achieve their long-held objective of removing Rajoy from power.

The support that clinched the Socialist’s motion came late Thursday from the PNV, which just eight days previously had provided Rajoy with the key votes in Congress needed to pass the government’s 2018 budgets. In exchange for the PNV votes, the Basque party requested a commitment from Sanchez that his administration would not not call immediate elections nor alter the amount earmarked in the just-approved 2018 budget for infrastructure and social spending in the Basque Country.

In the censure debate Thursday, Sánchez pledged that his administration will respect the 2018 budget passed last week and will move forward immediately to lay the groundwork for a more progressive 2019 federal budget. He also said he would seek a consensus among all the parties supporting the censure motion as to when to call the next general election.

The Socialist leader also promised the Catalan parties that he would open dialogue with the new regional government of President Quim Torra aimed at resolving the Catalan crisis, but always within the legal restrictions of the Catalan regional Estatut and Spain’s Constitution of 1978, which prohibits secession of any region from Spain. During the debate, Sánchez also pledged to Podemos general secretary Pablo Iglesias that his party would work together with Podemos to pass key social legislation and to win the next general elections for progressive parties and movements.

► Read More in Spanish at El País, El Periódico and La Vanguardia …

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