Spain, Congress denies confidence in Figo: now it is Sanchez’s turn to try to form a new government

Alberto Nunez Figo did not succeed. For the second time in a few days, the Spanish Congress rejected the leader of the Spanish Popular Party by a majority of 172 votes in favour, 177 votes against and one invalid vote. The former governor of Galicia needed a relative majority to become prime minister and succeed Pedro Sanchez, but the votes of his party and the far-right allies of the Vox party were not enough to achieve the goal. Now the ball is back in the hands of King Felipe VI, who, after once again consulting with representatives of political groups, is likely to entrust the task of forming the government to the outgoing Prime Minister of the Socialist Workers Party. The Socialist leader will have until November 27 – two months from Figo’s first failed vote – to gain confidence. Even if Sanchez does not succeed, the king will dissolve both chambers and Spain will return to the polls on January 14.

The struggle over pardon

Certain that he could not gather enough votes, Figo used much of his speech in Congress to return to the role of opposition leader and attack the Socialist prime minister. “Mr. Sanchez, have the courage to speak out and tell the country if you want to be head of government at the expense of causing the country to lose its dignity,” Figo said in the hall today. The reference refers to negotiations between the two Spanish progressive parties – PSOE and Somar – and the Catalan independents, who imposed a series of conditions in exchange for support for the new Sánchez government. In particular, former President of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont called for an amnesty for all Catalan independence activists and a new referendum. “I am against that. What do you think? I remember that he committed himself not to do either one or the other,” Figo urged in the courtroom, addressing Sánchez. This time also the outgoing Prime Minister preferred not to speak in the hall. It was up to Oscar Puente, the Socialist MP, to respond to the leader of the Popular Party: « “She has used the Spanish institutions, the crown that entrusted her with the task of forming a government, to crown herself leader of her party. Because what is clear now is: leader of the opposition.”

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Negotiations with independents and Fox threats

At the moment, it is not yet clear how far Pedro Sánchez wants to go to gain the trust of Congress. Negotiations with the Catalan parties ERC and Junts have been going on for weeks, but mainly include Somar, the party allied with Yolanda Díaz’s Socialist Workers’ Party. In recent days, the Socialists published a statement in which they reaffirmed “no” to any secessionist referendum. Instead, it appears that there may be some openness on the issue of amnesty for Catalan independence activists, which Puigdemont himself, in exile in Belgium, may enjoy as well. Vox party leader Santiago Abascal threatened today that “the Spanish people have the right to defend themselves, and they should not start complaining after that if that happens.” Reaching an agreement between progressives and independents is by no means a given. If negotiations fail, Spain will have only one solution left: returning to the ballot boxes.

Image credits: EPA/Juan Carlos Hidalgo | Popular Party leader Alberto Núñez Viejo in the Spanish Congress (September 29, 2023)

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