24 Oct, 2023 @ 13:30
2 mins read

Spain to reduce working hours after socialist parties PSOE and Sumar agree to form a government – but they’ll need to win the all-important investiture vote first

Yolanda Diaz and Pedro Sanchez
LaPresse via ZUMA Press

THE POLITICAL stalemate that has reigned in Spain since the inconclusive general election of July 23 was a step closer to ending on Tuesday, after the Socialist Party (PSOE) and new leftist alliance Sumar closed the details of a coalition agreement. 

The leaders of the two groups, acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of the PSOE and acting Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Diaz of Sumar, have agreed to reduce the working week from 40 hours to 37.5 hours, without any reduction in salaries, should they get into power. 

The other measures announced by the two groups today in a joint statement include ‘ambitious advances’ in other areas of labour policy, such as an emergency plan to reduce youth unemployment in Spain, which is hovering stubbornly around 26%. 

In a joint statement, the parties also committed to bolstering the public healthcare system as well as building more public housing. Free universal childcare from birth to the age of three is another pledge, as well as tax reforms that would see banks and energy companies contribute more to the public purse. 

Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says he will seek parliamentary majority in Spain's Congress
Caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. Cordon Press image

But a potential PSOE-Sumar government will not be able to implement any of these policies if prime ministerial candidate Pedro Sanchez cannot win sufficient support from lawmakers in Congress to be voted back into office. 

The winner of the July 23 general election was the Popular Party (PP), led by former regional premier of Galicia Alberto Nuñez Feijoo. He was chosen by the Spanish king, Felipe VI, to form a government earlier this year despite having clearly told the monarch that he lacked the votes needed from other parties to be successful at an investiture debate in Congress.

Sure enough, he failed in that bid for power, only securing the votes of his own party, far-right Vox and two small groups in Congress, the Canarian Coalition and Navarrese People’s Union, for a total of 172 yes votes, short of the 176 votes needed for an absolute majority in the 350-seat lower house of parliament. 

After Feijoo’s defeat, the king invited Sanchez to form a government. The date for the investiture debate is yet to be set, but the acting prime minister also needs to secure the support of smaller parties if he is to be successful in his bid to stay in power

Having guaranteed the support of Sumar, he still has to ensure he has the backing of a number of other smaller groups in Congress. These include Catalan nationalist parties, who are demanding serious concessions for their pro-independence cause in exchange for their backing. 

Yolanda Diaz Participates In A Rally In Malaga, Spain 22 May 2023
Sumar leader Yolanda Diaz. © Jesus Merida/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire

These include an amnesty for anyone involved in the 2017 secessionist drive in the northeastern region, a move that has been slammed by opposition parties and has yet to be confirmed by Sanchez himself.

Sanchez’s PSOE counts on 121 seats in Congress, and is now guaranteed the 31 votes from Sumar. It will also need the seven from the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), six from Basque party EH Bildu, five from the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), one from the Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG), and at least five from the seven deputies in Congress for the Together for Catalonia party. 

Should Sanchez fail in his bid to stay in power, Spain will be returning to the polling booths in early 2024 for a fresh general election. 

Sanchez’s previous government, which was formed in early 2020, was a coalition of his Socialist Party and far-left Unidas Podemos. The latter party has since been absorbed into Sumar.

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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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