Spain: Rajoy loses second vote of confidence – Xmas elections likely

The Guardian — Spain has moved closer to the prospect of holding its third general election in a year, slated for Christmas Day, after its acting prime minister once again failed to win parliament’s backing to form a government that would bring an end to eight months of political paralysis.

On Friday evening, 48 hours after falling six seats short of a majority in the 350-seat congress of deputies, Mariano Rajoy, the leader of the conservative People’s party (PP), lost a second investiture debate by the same margin as the first: 170 votes to 180.

As predicted, the effort proved unsuccessful after the Socialist leader, Pedro Sánchez, maintained his refusal to support Rajoy or facilitate the formation of a PP-led minority government by abstaining. Instead, Sánchez used the highly charged debate to suggest that the “forces of change” could yet try to form an alternative administration to solve the political deadlock.

The country has been in the hands of Rajoy’s caretaker administration since last December’s inconclusive general election, when the PP won 123 seats, but fell short of a majority. A repeat election held at the end of June also yielded a hung parliament: although the conservative PP picked up 14 more seats, meaning a majority again proved elusive.

Unless Rajoy or any of his opponents can find a way out of the enduring impasse, electoral law means the king will dissolve parliament in eight weeks’ time, with fresh elections likely to be held on 25 December. Neither the prospect nor the timing of a third election will be popular with Spanish voters, who are growing tired of the politicking and the lack of a proper government.

Speaking before the vote, Rafael Hernando, the PP’s parliamentary spokesman, said that while the idea of further elections was ridiculous, the party would take the necessary steps to ensure Christmas was not ruined by a return to the polls. One mooted solution is to cut the campaign period in half so that the vote would be held on 18 December.