PP and Ciudadanos sign corruption pact ahead of investiture negotiations

Rafael Hernando and Juan Carlos Girauta

Rafael Hernando and Juan Carlos Girauta

“This is the beginning of a love affair,” says PP spokesman, while Socialist leader insists his party will not support Rajoy

Having signed up to a series of anti-corruption measures imposed by Ciudadanos on Friday morning, the Popular Party (PP) is now clearly hoping it can count on the emerging party’s support to form a government and end a political stalemate that has left Spain rudderless for more than eight months, thus avoiding a third general election in a year.

“This is the beginning of a love affair,” said a smiling PP spokesman, Javier Hernando, as he shook hands with his opposite number in Ciudadanos, Juan Carlos Girauta, on Friday in Congress after signing an anti-corruption pact. The deal was part of a memorandum of six measures Ciudadanos presented to the PP last week.

By signing up to Ciudadanos’ six points, his party and Rivera’s have moved closer together, making his investiture a possibility

But the leader of the emerging center-right group, Albert Rivera, who is still wary of being pulled into a marriage of convenience by the PP, continued to insist that his party’s demands that the PP take specific measures to combat corruption is simply a pre-condition for voting with the PP when interim Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy appears before Congress at the upcoming investiture debate, which will start on August 30.

In order to be reinstated as the country’s prime minister, following a second inconclusive election in June, Mariano Rajoy will need to secure an absolute majority in a vote to be held on August 31. If he fails, a second vote, at which a simple majority will suffice, will take place on September 2.

At present, Rajoy lacks the support in Congress to be voted in as prime minister. He will have 170 votes with the support of Ciudadanos and the Canary Islands Coalition, but will still need six more for an absolute majority in the first round, or a total of 11 abstentions in the second.

Rajoy has repeatedly said over the course of this year that is he open to negotiations “without limits” with the Socialist Party and Ciudadanos, highlighting the urgency of approving a budget in time to meet European Union fiscal policy deadlines. Rajoy says he would need to greenlight the budget in late August, in time to send it to Brussels by mid-October.

The vetoing and blocking we’ve seen isn’t against the PP, but against the expectations of the Spanish people
PP SPOKESMAN JAVIER HERNANDO

Now, by signing up to Ciudadanos’ six points, his party and Rivera’s have moved closer together, making his investiture a possibility.

“We will continue to move steadily forward until we reach agreement,” said Hernando on Friday morning, explaining that the talks over the coming days with Ciudadanos will be divided into four policy blocks: economy, education and R&D, social, and institutions.

“The idea is for an agreement on the investiture, which at a future date we would like to see become a pact for government,” he said, adding in reference to the Socialist Party’s (PSOE) leader Pedro Sánchez: “The vetoing and blocking we’ve seen isn’t against the PP or Mariano Rajoy, but against the expectations of the Spanish people. Pedro Sánchez has the key to unblock this situation.”

No change of stance from Socialist Party

But speaking immediately after the PP and Ciudadanos’ announcement, Pedro Sánchez reiterated his party’s refusal to support Rajoy in any way. “The PSOE is the alternative, not a potential ally,” he said, insisting again that he would vote against Rajoy at the investiture.

“The PSOE will vote against the investiture and the budget, which will simply mean more cuts,” said Sánchez.

He also criticized the date for the start of the investiture debate, pointing out that should it fail, a third general election would take place on December 25.

Sánchez suggested that should Rajoy fail to win a vote, it would not be his party’s responsibility and that the PP would be able find allies in Congress, noting that regional parties supported the PP’s choice for speaker of Congress, Ana Pastor, in July.

“What Rajoy needs to do is reach agreement with his potential allies. One of them is Ciudadanos, but I would remind him that this won’t be enough to be invested. He must continue talking, negotiating, but he needs to do that with his allies, among which the PSOE is not included,” said Sánchez.

Over the course of the year, Rajoy has sought to pressure Sánchez, accusing the PSOE of responsibility for the ongoing political impasse. But Sánchez’s hands are tied: the decision not to support Rajoy’s investiture was taken by the Socialist Party’s federal committee earlier this summer.

But former Socialist Party leader Felipe González, who led the country between 1982 and 1996, has called on Sánchez to allow Rajoy to form a government and avoid holding a third general election in a year. Similarly, Javier Lambán, the head of the regional government of Aragón, said on Thursday that if Rajoy failed in his bid to continue as prime minister, that “perhaps this would be the moment to rethink voting against the PP.”

Rajoy has sought to pressure Pedro Sánchez, accusing the PSOE of responsibility for the political impasse

Ciudadanos knows that if it is to act as kingmaker to the PP, it must be seen not only to be not involved in any graft, but to have done its utmost to get the PP to take action against wrongdoers.

The first of Ciudadanos’ six points requires the PP to expel anybody charged with corruption from the party. The fourth point demands an end to amnesties for those found guilty of graft, and the sixth calls for a parliamentary commission to look into the Barcenas case.

The other three points call for greater transparency in the way Spain’s parties draw up their lists of candidates, an end to privileges that prevent deputies from being tried by lower courts, and a maximum two terms in office for prime ministers.

Published ElPais 24 August 2016

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