President Pedro Sánchez on Friday announced he will dissolve Spain’s Congress as of 5th March to make way for new national elections to be held on 28th April.
The decision, announced following an extraordinary meeting of the government’s Council of Ministers early Friday morning, came just days after Catalan pro-independence parties represented in Congress voted with the conservative Partido Popular (PP) and centre-right Ciudadanos parties to defeat the government’s 2019 budget proposal.
In making the announcement, Sánchez said he had reached the conclusion that it makes no sense to attempt to continue to govern without budget funding for the social programs and progressive agenda his Socialist party (PSOE) government has tried to implement since coming to power last May through a vote of no-confidence that turned former PP President Mariano Rajoy out of office.
Sánchez pointed to the fact that his minority government has had to work against the PP majority in the Congress and Senate left in place from the last elections in 2016, facing blocking tactics on key committees in Congress controlled by the PP and Ciudadanos, through which legislation must pass prior to debate and approval.
Also a factor, Sánchez said, was the defection of the Catalan pro-independence parties from the fragile coalition that voted to oust Rajoy last Spring and whose votes were necessary for budget approval. Given that reality, the Spanish president said he had decided to call new elections to let voters cast their ballots and reconfigure Congress through the selection of an entirely new legislature.
Political observers say that Sánchez’s Socialist party will fight the election campaign appealing to centrist and left-wing voters, attempting to mobilize the PSOE base against the rise of right-wing extremism. In doing so, the PSOE will likely try to focus attention on the alliance between the PP, Ciudadanos and ultra-right Vox party that turned the Socialists out of government in the region of Andalucia in December.
Both the PP and Ciudadanos are expected to try to make the election into a referendum on Spanish nationalism and continue their calls for a hard line against Catalan separatism. Observers say the right-wing parties will try to paint the PSOE government as politically beholden to the Catalan pro-independence forces and depict Sánchez as unpatriotic for having negotiated with them to try and resolve the ongoing political turmoil in Catalonia.
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