The Spanish Parliament is preparing for a tense day this Tuesday (26/09), in which the leader of the Popular Party (PP), Alberto Núñez Feijóo, will star in the ceremony known in the country as “investiture”, as he will try to form a majority sufficient legislative power to be invested as prime minister.
By law, after general elections – like the one that took place in Spain on July 23 –, the first person to try to form a parliamentary majority is the leader of the party that elected the most representatives. In this case, this right belongs to the PP, which obtained 137 seats, out of the 350 existing in Parliament.
However, to have a simple majority and form a government, 176 votes in favor are needed. Despite having the main bench, Feijóo’s party does not reach this quorum, not even adding the support of its natural ally, the far-right party Vox, which elected 33 representatives.
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The union of right-wing parties would be six votes short of the goal that would consecrate Feijóo as the new prime minister. It seems like a small difference, but according to most Spanish media, this task will be very difficult to achieve.
This is because all the other benches represent left-wing sectors or regionalist parties, which defend greater political autonomy for their homelands – some of them, in fact, do not hide their speech in favor of independence.
Even so, the PP is betting that Feijóo can reach the necessary majority through an epic “speech”, appealing to national unity and evoking the fact that, since the return of democracy to the country – in 1982, with the end of the regime of dictator Francisco Franco (1939-1975) and the seven years of the so-called “transition period” –, in every election, the party with the most votes managed to “invest” its leader in the position of prime minister, sometimes even counting on opposition votes , who claimed “respect for the will of the majority at the polls”.
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However, this strategy comes up against the fact that the other Spanish parties do not seem to be willing to make this gesture in favor of a government that would include Vox, due to its speech of persecution against some of these parties.
In August, the PP even proposed to the Socialist Workers’ Party of Spain (PSOE), of current Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, the formation of a “fractional government”, which would exclude Vox, but the offer was rejected.
Therefore, Feijóo will need to equalize in this possible “epic speech” a platform that can distance them from the extreme right enough to receive new support, without losing the votes of their main ally.
Catalan referendum returns
As in 2018, Catalonia will be preponderant when it comes to forming a majority. The curious thing is that, due to the peculiarities of the post-election scenario, its role will be even more decisive this time than the previous one, which took place a few months after the conflictive independence referendum.
Last July, the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and Juntos por Catalonia (right-wing party known only as “Junts”) parties elected seven representatives each.
These seven votes from Junts would be enough to guarantee Feijóo’s victory, but analysts consider it unlikely that the party will support a politician who is clearly against the amnesty of politicians arrested for the 2017 independence referendum attempt.
Six years ago, the then governor of Catalonia, Carles Piugdemont, representing Junts, tried to promote a referendum to ask whether or not the Catalans were in favor of the region’s independence from Spain. The initiative was strongly repressed by the Spanish central government, then led by a PP prime minister, Mariano Rajoy (2011-2018), who considered it an “attempt to fuel division throughout the country”.
The referendum took place on October 1, 2017 and ended with 90.2% of votes in favor of the independence proposal. Puigdemont even declared the independence of Catalonia, based on these results, but the measure was not recognized by Spain.
Two years later, Spain’s courts ordered the arrest of nine regional authorities. At least seven of these politicians remain in prison to this day. Puigdemont was one of those sentenced, but managed to escape the country and is in exile in Belgium.
In negotiations to form a government, both Junts and ERC demand, as a condition for delivering their votes, amnesty for independence politicians imprisoned for six years or exiled in other countries.
In August, the PP considered moderating its speech regarding independence, aiming to at least get closer to the Junts or the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV, for its acronym in Spanish), also right-wing and with six votes in Parliament, which would also be enough to form the desired majority.
However, the alliance with Vox made any type of negotiation with these sectors impossible. The leader of the Spanish extreme right, Santiago Abascal – speculated to be a likely vice-premier, if Feijóo is invested in the position – is characterized, among other things, by having a violent speech against all regionalist parties, left or right.
In the case of the Basque parties – in addition to the PNV, there is also the left-wing EH Bildu, which has five votes –, Abascal usually calls them “terrorists”, alluding to the fact that some of their representatives were part of organizations such as The Basque Homeland and Freedom, the now extinct nationalist guerrilla that was better known as ETA, its acronym in Basque language.
In addition to the Basques and Catalans, three other regionalist parties that elected one representative each could also decide in favor of Feijóo: the Union of the People of Navarra (center-right), the Coalition of the Canary Islands (center-right) and the Galician Nationalist Bloc (center left). However, none of them seem willing to support the PP if Vox continues to form part of the coalition.
Sánchez has a chance
Meanwhile, current Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, leader of the Socialist Workers’ Party of Spain (PSOE) and in office since 2018, awaits what could happen this Tuesday, envisioning the possibility of remaining in office, depending on the circumstances.
Feijó will have three chances to form a majority – if he fails this Tuesday, there will be a new vote on Wednesday (27/09), and a third and final one, if necessary, on Friday (29/09).
If the PP fails three times to obtain the necessary 176 votes, King Felipe VI will be forced to call the leaders of the main parties to a new round of meetings.
After these meetings, two possibilities open up. One of them is that Sánchez be allowed the opportunity to form a majority. The other is the call for new elections, probably for November this year.
Permission for Sánchez to try to form a majority requires that the monarch considers that the left’s result in the July 23 elections is strong enough to obtain this right.
In the vote held two months ago, the PSOE obtained 121 deputies and its coalition with the progressive Movimento Somar (heir to the extinct Podemos and led by Vice Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz), elected another 31, forming a bench of 152 representatives.
Even though it is further away from the quorum of 176, the government’s trump card is the fact that it reached this necessary majority twice since that election: when it elected socialist Francina Armengol as the new president of the Chamber and when the law was approved that allows the use of Basque, Catalan and Galician languages in official Congress ceremonies.
In both votes, held in August, the PSOE obtained the support of all regionalist parliamentarians, who together received 28 votes.
Even so, if the Spanish monarch grants Sánchez the opportunity to form a majority, it will be a challenge for him to obtain the 14 votes from the Catalan parties, which so far have shown themselves to be irreducible to the demand for amnesty for those arrested in the referendum.
This is a measure that the socialist prime minister is reluctant to commit to. In his five years of government, at no point was a single gesture made in favor of pardoning the independence activists.
With information from Public.