By Fernando Heller | EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es
24-08-2023 (updated: 24-08-2023 )
News Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.
Spain’s King Felipe VI charged the leader of Partido Popular (PP/EPP) with the task of gathering the required parliamentary support he needs to be invested as chief of the executive following the 23 July general elections. [EPA-EFE/Cabalar]
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The parliamentary debate on the investiture of Alberto Núñez Feijóo, the leader of the centre-right Partido Popular, will be held on 26 and 27 September, an extra month for the conservative politician to try to gather enough support to become Spain’s next prime minister.
On Tuesday, Spain’s King Felipe VI charged the leader of Partido Popular (PP/EPP) with the task of gathering the required parliamentary support he needs to be invested as chief of the executive following the 23 July general elections.
So far, however, Feijóo has only secured 172 votes, including those of the far-right VOX party, with which he governs in several Spanish regions, far from the 176 seats of the parliament’s absolute majority (out of 350).
According to PP sources, Feijóo intends to hold talks with all parties, including the Catalan pro-independence party JxCat, which currently holds the key to a new progressive government. Feijóo has only vetoed Basque separatists of EH Bildu, a party that some conservative political sectors consider a “political arm” of the defunct terrorist group ETA.
But the determination of the PP leader, winner of the early elections held last July, clashes head-on with the harsh reality of mathematics.
“We are heading to a failed investiture because (Feijóo) does not have enough votes […] This investiture is doomed to failure, but it is designed as an exercise in internal survival”, the acting Education Minister, Pilar Alegría (PSOE/S&D), said on Wednesday in an interview aired by public radio station RNE.
The Spanish monarch entrusted the task to Feijóo following the “tradition” that the King usually designates the most voted candidate, official sources said.
However, Feijóo can only count on the support of VOX, the third political force in Spain, with 33 seats, the two of centre-right Unión del Pueblo Navarro (UPN), and one of Coalición Canaria – not enough to reach the needed 176 seats as PP itself only has 137.
The parliamentary debate will start with Feijóo’s presentation of his political programme, with which he will seek the confidence of the Chamber.
To get appointed in the first round, he needs an absolute majority, though, if he fails, a second vote will be held 48 hours later, in which he will only need a simple majority.
Newly appointed Parliament Speaker Francina Armengol (PSOE/S&D) said on Wednesday that the dates selected allow “more than enough time for the candidate (Feijóo) to carry out the appropriate negotiations” with the representatives of the different political parties to try to gather more support.
Analysts quoted by Spanish media consider that Feijóo wants to showcase his victory before parliament and reinforce his now weakened leadership within the party, a position that – symbolically – is disputed by the president of the Madrid region, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, whom many already see as his possible successor at the head of the PP.
According to PSOE sources, Feijóo wanted to gather more time to avoid opening the internal Pandora’s box about his political “failure” on 23 July because he wants new elections.
“He wants new elections and is only going to reap a new failure, normalising his pacts with the far-right (VOX) and weakening even more damaged leadership”, the same sources quoted by EFE stated.
The political road map put forward by Armengol not only gives the PP leader more time but also provides acting prime minister and socialist candidate Pedro Sánchez room for manoeuvre to gather the (Catalan and Basque) votes he needs to set up a progressive coalition government of the PSOE with the left-wing bloc Sumar, led by the acting Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz.
But the leader of JxCat and former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, a fugitive from Spanish justice, and the current Catalan regional president, Pere Aragonès, of the pro-independence Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), have made clear their “red lines” for giving their “yes” to Sánchez.
Among their initial demands, which they could lower or reduce in the coming days, are, in addition to the recognition of Catalan as an official language in Spanish and EU institutions, the holding of a referendum on self-determination for Catalonia and an amnesty for all those involved in the very serious events of October 2017.
But the heavy toll Catalan separatists have set does not, in principle, according to experts, fit with the Spanish constitution.
On Tuesday, Sánchez made it clear that negotiations with Catalan pro-independence forces, in particular, JxCat, whose seven “yeses” he needs, will always take place within the framework of the Constitution.
“Dialogue is the method, and the Constitution is the framework”, the PSOE leader stressed in an attempt to reassure those who might think he would try to push the limits of legality.
Despite the secrecy surrounding the negotiations, Sumar sources have hinted that both the socialist party and the left-wing bloc, an alliance of 15 progressive parties, are analysing alternatives.
Sumar´s spokesperson in parliament, Marta Lois, stressed on Wednesday that the party is working with legal experts to explore the “institutional fit” of an amnesty law with the “necessary guarantees.”
“The processes or amnesty laws in Europe have been frequent. It is time to make progress in this regard with all the constitutional guarantees, of course”, Lois said in an interview aired by the public broadcaster RTVE.
If neither of the two candidates achieves the necessary support, since the official clock for the investiture has already been set in motion, Spain would probably have to hold new elections on 14 January 2024.
(Fernando Heller | EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)
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