Acting Spanish prime minister and Socialist (PSOE) leader Pedro Sánchez will now have to wait until Tuesday and the second round of votes in the Spanish Congress, in the hope of securing his investiture.
On Sunday, following the second day of debating in the Madrid parliament, Sánchez secured 166 ‘yes’ votes with 165 against, and 18 abstentions.
In the first vote following an investiture debate, a candidate needs to win with an overall majority: 176 or more ‘yes’ votes from the 350-seat Spanish Congress. Sánchez already knew he would not reach this figure, and is now looking at Tuesday’s second vote where just a simple majority is needed – more ‘yes’ votes than ‘no’.
Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias, leader of the Podemos party, officially presented their coalition agreement on Monday 30 December.
The PSOE’s 120 seats from the 10 November general election, however, combined with the 35 won by the left-wing Podemos party, left them short of the majority in the Spanish Congress. The re-election of Sánchez as prime minister has been in the hands of the Catalan pro-independence Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party’s 13 MPs abstaining in the voting, as well as the support from other smaller political groups.
With the Catalan issue at the centre of Spain’s political deadlock, on Thursday the ERC party finally agreed to abstain in the forthcoming vote, based upon an agreement to pursue solutions to the conflict via dialogue.
The ERC-PSOE agreement has set out the creation of a bilateral negotiating table between the Spanish and Catalan governments up to 15 days after the formation of the Spanish government and states that ‘political means’ should be favoured whilst ‘overcoming the judicialization’ of the Catalan independence conflict.
On Saturday the ERC party stated that they would maintain their agreement to abstain, despite the news on Friday that Spain’s Electoral Authority (JEC) has ordered Catalan president Quim Torra be disqualified from his post.
This was also followed by news that the electoral board has decided to not grant jailed pro-independence ERC leader Oriol Junqueras his MEP seat, despite being elected by citizens on the 2019 European election and being granted immunity as such by the EU court in December 2019.
‘We need to resume the political dialogue, where grievances began to pile up, we need to leave the judicialisation of the conflict [with Catalonia] behind,’ Sánchez stated during his opening speech on Saturday in the Spanish Congress.
Sánchez insisted on the need for dialogue on the independence issue and put the focus on politicians and not judges, saying that ‘a political conflict needs to go back to politics’.
Sánchez also announced that he would launch ‘a bilateral negotiating table between the Spanish and Catalan governments,’ as agreed with pro-independence Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party.
‘Resuming the path to dialogue, negotiation and pact is our duty,’ he added, although making clear that it has to be within ‘Spain’s legal framework’ and the ‘constitution’.
At the moment – mathematically at least – Sánchez has still ensured a successful bid in the final investiture vote on 7 January, despite the electoral board’s rulings – and unless matters change in the next 48 hours. If his vote fails on Tuesday, however, it will again open a two-month period to find a candidate to lead Spain. If MPs fail to agree on an alternative, then a third general election within a year would be immediately called.