‘Scrooge’ elections: Spain could be called back to the polls on Christmas Day

grincheActing president Mariano Rajoy has agreed to centre-right Ciudadanos’ six anti-corruption conditions and set a date of August 30 for the start of the in-house presidential election debate, with the first round of voting due for August 31.

The right-wing PP leader will need an outright majority in his favour – 176 ‘yes’ votes as a minimum out of the 350 MPs who gained seats in the second general election in June.

With the PP’s own 137 MPs, Ciudadanos’ 32, and the sole representative in Parliament for the Canarian Coalition, Rajoy still needs another six.

If he does not achieve this, the presidential investiture voting will go into a second round, and he will only need a simple majority – more ‘yes’ votes than ‘no’ votes, meaning parties who do not actively support his bid to get back into office can still help Rajoy do so by abstaining.

With 170 ‘yes’ votes in round two almost guaranteed, if Rajoy is to gain his simple majority, he will need 11 to abstain unless he can find the extra six to vote for him.

The PSOE, or left-wing socialists, with 85 seats, maintain that they will do neither and will vote ‘no’ in both rounds, but have not expressed any desire to form an alternative government – despite leftist independents Unidos Podemos, with 71 seats, urging their leader Pedro Sánchez to do so.
For next year’s State budget to be approved, the investiture will be crucial, since it must be signed off before the end of 2016.

And if Rajoy loses his bid to lead the country again, he will still have been president for the longest term in Spanish democratic history at over five years, but a third general election will be necessary.

This could be avoided if the PSOE was prepared to sit down with Podemos and form an alternative, left-wing government, but the former remains obstinate and refuses to negotiate with the relatively new formation led by Pablo Iglesias after he voted against Sánchez earlier this year, needled by the PSOE’s attempts to form a governing pact with Ciudadanos.

If the investiture on August 31 or the second round on September 2 fail, a third general election will be held on Christmas Day.

This is likely to cause a great deal of upset among the public – firstly, because any Spanish citizen aged 18 or over is liable to be called up for compulsory polling station duty at a time when they clearly want to be relaxing and celebrating with friends and family, and secondly, because it means having to turn out to vote on a national day off and one of the biggest behind-closed-doors fiestas of the year.

In practice, the likelihood of anyone bar die-hard party supporters – who are diminishing in the case of all bar the PP – voting on Christmas Day is remote, so a December 25 election would largely benefit the right-wing caretaking government.

Ciudadanos’ leader Albert Rivera has explained to the PSOE that it does not wish to form a joint government with the PP and the idea of supporting Rajoy is merely to get a government in office at all.

Once Spain has a president again, says Rivera, Ciudadanos and the PSOE can work closely together as a productive opposition to prevent unworkable policies from becoming law and to propose, and push through with a majority vote, necessary legislation.

The PSOE is not convinced and views Ciudadanos’ proposals as the cursed apple in the Garden of Eden.

According to the PP, it has returned Spain to growth and repaired the damage to the economy ’caused by the socialists’, and is the only party which can successfully continue in that vein.

But outside of the summer season, where unemployment drops to around 20% or 21%, jobless figures are just as high under the PP as they were at the end of the PSOE’s rain, and the country’s public debt is now at its highest since the year 1909.

Recent reports showed Spain was in the red by 100.5% of the GDP, or €1.5 trillion – narrowly missing a European Union fine for failing to reach its targets – and the highest amount owed since 103 years ago when it shot up to 102% of the gross domestic product, a time when Spain had been losing its overseas colonies hand over fist and was gripped in a deep depression.

Memes have already appeared on Twitter (including the above picture) over the third election being on Christmas Day.

“Those Grinches in the PP have even stolen Christmas from us,” one user said, whilst another commented, “they should be on December 28 [Spain’s equivalent to April Fool’s Day].”

“Good grief, imagine the King’s Christmas speech,” said another, tweeting a photo of Felipe VI addressing the nation with party campaign posters on the palace wall.

Published Think Spain 19 August 2016

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