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Socialists seek to oust Spanish government after corruption conviction

Ciutadans set new election as pre-condition for both major parties

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25 May 2018 11:37 AM

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ACN | Madrid

The Spanish Socialists (PSOE) have tabled a motion of no-confidence against Mariano Rajoy’s government a day after his party was convicted in a major corruption scandal. The move could deal a fatal blow to Rajoy and his executive, in power since 2011.

PSOE, Spain’s main opposition party, acknowledges that finding the support needed to oust Rajoy's People's Party (PP) will be no easy task. In order to succeed, the motion requires the backing of Spain’s third and fourth largest parties, Podemos and Ciutadans—an unlikely combination, as each sees the other as a political nemesis; moreover, Ciutadans is Rajoy’s main ally.

Ciutadans said they will only back the Socialists' motion if a new election is immediately called. The very same condition was set for supporting Rajoy. Currently soaring in the polls, Ciutadans could surpass both PP and PSOE in a new election. Although initially rejecting Ciutadans' demands, Sánchez subsequently opened the door to calling fresh elections. 

  • "The only objective of this motion is for Pedro Sánchez to be president at any cost and with anyone"

    Mariano Rajoy · Spanish president

PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez could instead try to form an alternative government without calling a new election. As for the motion getting through without Ciutadans’ support, PSOE would need the votes of the Catalan pro-independence parties and the Basque nationalist party (PNV), or two Canary islander nationalist MPs. Although having previously rejected forming an alliance with Catalan parties to unseat Rajoy, Sánchez said he will now accept their support. PNV backed the Spanish government in the crucial budget vote this week.

The newly elected Catalan president Quim Torra said he was in favor of helping oust Rajoy if the Socialists put forward a "Republican program" and support "Catalan political prisoners."

Rajoy took on the Socialist leader in a press conference later on the day. "The only objective of this motion is for Pedro Sánchez to be president at any cost and with anyone," he said, and accused him of "harming Spain" for wanting to negotiate with pro-independence parties.

Whether the motion succeeds or not, PSOE says the voting will shine a light on Ciutadans’ true commitment to regenerate Spanish politics. Presenting itself as an anti-corruption party, Ciutadans has been criticized for supporting PP.

Former treasurer: 30 years in jail

On Thursday, Spain’s National Court sentenced a former People’s Party (PP) treasurer to more than 30 years in jail for the so-called ‘Gürtel’ case —a corruption plot involving illegal party financing. Party leaders, including current president Mariano Rajoy, were allegedly regularly paid with black money.

PP was fined 250,000 euros for benefiting from the fraud. Meanwhile, former Spanish health minister Ana Mato will have to pay back 28,000 euros for using money from the ‘Gürtel case’ for personal trips and events for her family.

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  • Spanish president Mariano Rajoy (left) and Socialists leader Pedro Sánchez (by PP)

  • Spanish president Mariano Rajoy (left) and Socialists leader Pedro Sánchez (by PP)