26 Sep, 2023 @ 12:38
3 mins read

Explainer: Why the Popular Party’s Alberto Nuñez Fejioo is doomed to fail at this week’s investiture vote, and what will happen next

King Felipe VI and PP leader Alberto Nuñez Feijoo
MADRID , 22/08/2023.-El rey Felipe VI recibe al líder del PP, Alberto Núñez Feijóo (d), en la última de sus siete entrevistas con dirigentes políticos antes de decidir qué candidato propondrá para que se someta en el Congreso a la investidura como presidente del Gobierno , este martes en el Palacio de la Zarzuela. EFE/ Sebastian Mariscal Martinez POOL

THE LEADER of Spain’s conservative Popular Party (PP), Alberto Nuñez Feijoo, will be the protagonist of a two-day investiture debate in the Congress of Deputies today and tomorrow, which will conclude with a vote by lawmakers that could potentially see him become prime minister. 

But the Galician politician’s bid for power is almost certainly doomed to failure, barring any last-minute surprises. 

How did we get here?

Feijoo’s party was the winner at the July 23 elections, but it fell well short of the majority in the 350-seat house of 176. Polls had predicted that the seats won by Vox would be enough to get a coalition of the two groups over the line and into power, but in the end the far-right party fared much worse than expected and that option was off the table from the start. 

Since then, Feijoo has only managed to drum up two other votes from minor parties: the Canarian Coalition and the Navarrese People’s Union. Other groups are refusing to consider supporting the PP given its partnership with Vox – a party that is anathema for many rivals given its extreme policies. 

The PP currently counts on 137 seats in Congress, while Vox has 33. 

It falls to Spain’s King Felipe VI to choose a candidate for an investiture vote after an election, once the monarch has held meetings with the different political parties. The king chose Feijoo on the basis that the PP was the most-voted party, even though Feijoo had made clear that he lacked the support to be voted into power. 

What happens on Tuesday?

The debate began at 12pm today, and will see Feijoo make the first speech with no time limits. He will set out his plan for a PP-led government. The other parties will not have the chance to respond at this point, and when Feijoo has concluded, the speaker of the house will call a recess. 

After that break, representatives of other parties can take the floor and respond to Feijoo’s proposals. Lawmakers will have a maximum time of 30 minutes to speak, and the prime ministerial candidate can either respond to them in turn or wait until they are finished and answer them all at once. 

The caretaker prime minister, Pedro Sanchez of the Socialist Party, can take the floor during the debate whenever he likes but it was unclear on Tuesday morning whether or not he would do so. During a similar investiture debate in 2016, Sanchez was the candidate, and the then-caretaker prime minister, Mariano Rajoy of the PP, opted not to take the floor. 

Socialist sources have told Spanish reporters that Sanchez is likely to opt for a similar low profile during the debate.

When will lawmakers vote on Feijoo’s candidacy?

The debate will restart on Wednesday morning at 9am, with any parliamentary groups that have not yet taken the floor given the opportunity to do so. 

Once the debate has finally concluded, the speaker will call each deputy to cast their vote verbally, choosing between yes, no and an abstention. 

In this first vote, Feijoo needs a majority of 176 votes to be successful. If, as is predicted, he does not get this support, the session will conclude and will restart 48 hours later. 

How many votes will Feijoo get?

The PP candidate is expected to secure 172 yes votes, from his party, Vox, the Navarrese People’s Union and the Canarian Coalition. All of the other parties are expected to vote against him, for a total of 178 no votes. 

When will the second vote take place? 

Parliamentary sources told Spanish daily El Pais that a second vote is likely to take place on Friday. Feijoo will have 10 minutes to make a speech in which he once more requests support for his candidacy, and then representatives from other parties will have five minutes to respond. 

A second vote will then be cast, at which a simple majority would see Feijoo become prime minister: i.e., more yes votes than no votes. 

But barring any last-minute surprises the result is expected to be the same. 

What will happen next?

If Feijoo fails in his bid, the most likely outcome will be that King Felipe VI will present Pedro Sanchez as a candidate. As recently as Sunday, the caretaker prime minister made a speech at a party rally insisting that he already has the votes to be successful

To do so, he needs the support of leftist alliance Sumar, which he can already count on, but also the backing of smaller parties. 

Among these are Catalan nationalist groups such as the Catalan Republican Left and Together for Catalunya. These parties are demanding major concessions in return for their support, including an amnesty for anyone involved in the 2017 independence drive in the northeastern region. 

While Sanchez is yet to confirm such an amnesty publicly, he is widely expected to grant these concessions in his bid to return to power. 

If he should also fail at an investiture vote, Spain will be looking at fresh elections in the New 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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