Acting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has failed to earn the trust of parliament at a second investiture vote which was held on Thursday. This means that he will not, for now, be able to form a new government. The candidate for the Socialist Party (PSOE) received 124 affirmative votes, 155 against and 67 abstentions.
Pedro Sánchez was backed by his own 123 lawmakers and by one representative from a small regional party in Cantabria, the PRC. The Popular Party (PP), Ciudadanos (Citizens), the far-right Vox, Junts per Catalunya, Navarra Suma and Canaries Coalition all voted no. There were abstentions from Unidas Podemos, Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), Compromís, Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and Bildu.
Negotiations between the PSOE and left-wing Unidas Podemos continued right down to the wire, but the two groups were unable to come up with a governing deal. The clock will now start ticking for another potential investiture vote in September, but if that also comes to nothing, Spain will head toward fresh elections in November. It would be the fourth time that Spaniards have been called to the polls to choose a government in four years, and the fifth election held this year alone.
Unidas Podemos – a coalition of Podemos and the United Left (IU) – made a last-ditch offer to the PSOE, demanding a deputy prime minister role for social rights and equality, as well as the Health, Labour and Science and Universities ministries. The PSOE was offering the deputy prime minister spot, as well as Health, Housing and Equality ministries.
The main sticking point, according to sources familiar with the negotiation, was the Labour Ministry, which Pablo Iglesias wanted control of. The PSOE rejected this on the basis that the left-wing party is unpopular in some economic sectors. Podemos said that they were told they could not have this ministry because of misgivings by Spain’s biggest employers association, the CEOE.
Speaking in Congress on Thursday ahead of the vote, Pedro Sánchez claimed that the “problem was not one of policy, but rather one of the ministries. Iglesias wanted to control the government, 100 percent of government spending, despite being the fourth [most-voted] party [in Congress].”
In response, during his five-minute speech, Iglesias asked Pedro Sánchez whether he believed “that you have alluded to us with the respect that a possible partner in government deserves.” He then went on to bemoan the fact that the details of the negotiations between the two parties had been leaked during the talks, before setting out what the party’s demands had been. “Today we made a proposal in which all we wanted were powers, not seats. Powers to raise the minimum wage, to stop health privatizations, for a euthanasia law once and for all, to lower university fees… We haven’t asked for anything else.”
Iglesias also made a final offer to Pedro Sánchez during his speech to Congress. “We will give up on the Labour Ministry if you give us active employment policies.” These policies cover training and career advice for the unemployed, and they are shared between the central and regional governments.
At a first vote last Tuesday, Pedro Sánchez received 124 affirmative votes: 123 from his own lawmakers and one from the single representative for a small party from the northern region of Cantabria. This was far short of the 176 he required for an absolute majority.
The outcome fuelled expectations that the PSOE and Unidas Podemos would reach a last-minute deal ahead of Thursday’s second round. As late as Thursday morning, however, talks were at a standstill due to differences over what Cabinet positions should go to the anti-austerity party.
A precedent in 2016
For Pedro Sánchez, this is the second time that he has submitted to an investiture vote that failed: in March 2016, after Mariano Rajoy of the Popular Party (PP) refused to do so because of insufficient parliamentary support, the Socialist leader asked Congress to let him form a government instead. He was voted down in both rounds, with a final result of 131 affirmative votes from his own PSOE, Ciudadanos and the Canaries Coalition. There were 219 negative votes and no abstentions.