22 Aug, 2023 @ 18:00
2 mins read

Spain’s caretaker prime minister assures king he has the support needed to be voted back into office

King Felipe VI and Sumar leader Yolanda Diaz
Cordon Press

DURING A meeting with Spain’s King Felipe VI today, caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez assured the monarch that he will count on the necessary support in Congress to be voted back into power.

The king is this week meeting with political leaders before proposing a candidate for an investiture debate, in the wake of the inconclusive July 23 general election. 

Speaking to reporters after the pair spoke, the Socialist Party leader made clear that he sees no point in his political opponent, Alberto Nuñez Feijoo of the conservative Popular Party, being put forward as the candidate, given that he is clearly lacking the votes. 

“There is only one parliamentary majority possible, a progressive majority led by the Socialist Party,” Sanchez said. “There is no other alternative than to repeat a progressive government.”

Feijoo’s PP won the election last month, but fell well short of a majority. In contrast to the predictions of polls, the party would still not have the 176 seats needed to form a government in Congress even with the support of Vox. The far-right party fared poorly at the July vote, and there are barely any other groups willing to support such an alliance given the extreme policies of Vox.

Sanchez, meanwhile, can count on the support of the new leftist bloc Sumar at an investiture vote, as well as the possibility of votes from smaller parties such as the Catalan Republican Left. 

This scenario would be a repeat of his last term in office, which saw him govern in a minority coalition with junior partner Unidas Podemos (now part of Sumar), with the support of other groups in Congress. 

Sanchez argued that the investiture process ‘is not a procedure that is for show’, but rather a debate for the investiture vote, aimed at ‘bringing together the necessary support’ for a candidate to be voted in as prime minister. 

Pedro Sanchez and Alberto Nuñez Feijoo
Pedro Sanchez and Alberto Nuñez Feijoo. Cordon Press

“I conveyed to the head of state my disposal to assume this responsibility and to achieve the investiture,” he told reporters on Tuesday. 

Sanchez does not, however, have the support he needs at such a vote guaranteed. In particular, he needs to secure the votes from pro-Catalan independence party Together for Catalonia, which is demanding major concessions in return, such as a vote on the future of the northeastern region. 

In the caretaker prime minister’s favour, however, was the Socialist candidate for speaker of the house’s victory in a vote last week. Francina Armengol was voted into the key congressional position with the support of 178 deputies in the 350-seat chamber, two votes above an absolute majority. The Socialists will now have a greater control over the timings of the activity of Congress in the coming months. 

Parliamentary arithmetic

Working against Sanchez is the parliamentary arithmetic. The PP has managed to rally the support of Vox, the Canarian Coalition and the Navarrese People’s Union, for a total of 172 votes (four short of a majority).

Right now, Sanchez is only guaranteed the support of the PSOE and Sumar, for a total of 152 votes. 

Government sources told Spanish daily El Pais that because of this, the king is likely to propose Feijoo as the candidate for a first investiture vote. 

But if, as Sanchez believes, this attempt will be doomed to failure, Spaniards could be looking at a repeat general election some time around the end of the year.

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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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