3 Aug, 2023 @ 16:30
2 mins read

Spain’s caretaker prime minister slammed by opposition for picking Morocco as holiday destination

Pedro Sanchez's Moroccan vacation
(Photo by Alberto Gardin / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

NOT EVEN on vacation can Spain’s caretaker prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, escape attacks from the country’s opposition parties. This time, the Socialist Party leader has raised the ire of his political foes for choosing Morocco for his family summer break. 

Sources from La Moncloa prime ministerial palace have confirmed to the Spanish press that Sanchez is indeed in Marrakech, where he will be spending several days. It is, they made clear, a ‘strictly private’ trip that was ‘paid for entirely with his own resources’, and that there will be no official engagements while he was there. 

The opposition Popular Party (PP) has called the trip a ‘clear provocation’ on the part of the caretaker prime minister, while it has been subject to all kinds of interpretations on social media. 

The reason for the controversy is twofold. Firstly, in 2022 Sanchez did an about-turn on Spain’s long-standing position on the disputed Western Sahara territory. He came out and backed the Moroccan proposal to grant the area more autonomy, provided that it remains under control of the government in Rabat. 

The move served to calm the tensions between the two countries, which had been running high after Spain allowed in May 2021 the leader of the Polisario Front – which has sought the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco – to receive treatment for Covid-19 in a Spanish hospital. 

In response, Morocco relaxed its border controls at Spain’s North African exclave city of Ceuta, allowing thousands of people to illegally cross into Spain. 

Tensions ran high until Sanchez’s about-face on the Western Sahara. 

Secondly, Morocco was among the countries accused by some to be behind the so-called Pegasus spying case, where software was used to target Sanchez’s cellphone. While there is no evidence to confirm this, suspicions remain. A High Court investigation into the case was shelved last month due to a lack of cooperation by Israel, which is responsible for the Pegasus software. 

It was the vice secretary for organisation at the conservative PP, Miguel Tellado, who slammed Sanchez for his choice of holiday destination, calling it a ‘clear provocation in line with this person’s arrogance’, while on social media the PM’s critics have accused him of further pandering to the North African country thanks to his choice of destination. 

Tellado also said that Sanchez was on vacation ‘ignoring everything that is going on’, in reference to the political stalemate that has resulted after the inconclusive July 23 general election. 

Cobble together votes

The PP was the winner of most votes but fell short of a majority, even with the support of the far-right Vox party. Sanchez is hopeful that he can cobble together the votes to continue as prime minister thanks to leftist alliance Sumar and smaller regional parties. 

“It would be good if he returned from Morocco and accepted his electoral defeat,” Tellado stated. “He cannot be prime minister at any price, and the time has arrived for [the PP and the Socialist Party] to sit down and talk,” he added, in comments reported by Spanish daily El Pais

If an agreement can not be reached on who will be voted back in by Congress as prime minister, Spaniards could head back to the polls at Christmas. Until then, Sanchez will remain in place as caretaker prime minister.

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Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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