For the first time in Spain’s democratic history, the political situation remains at a standstill following two inconclusive general elections held on December 20 and June 26.
The new political scenario that emerged in December, with four main parties that lack enough of a majority to form a government on their own, yet seem unable to reach cross-party governing deals, could result in a third general election.
Political leaders have between now and October 31 to find a way out of the impasse, or else tell Spaniards that they have to go vote (again) on Christmas Day.
What if Rajoy does not win the investiture vote on August 31 or the run-off on September 2 ?
If Mariano Rajoy fails to secure enough support from Congress, King Felipe VI will hold a new round of talks with political parties in order to find an alternative candidate to try for the post of prime minister. But they will be racing against the clock: Spanish legislation establishes that once the investiture vote is held, a two-month countdown begins at the term of which the king must dissolve parliament and call new elections.
How many votes are necessary, and who might provide them ?
The first vote on Wednesday requires an absolute majority of 176 favorable votes. If Rajoy does not manage this figure, there will be a new vote on September 2. This time all he needs is a simple majority of more yes votes than no votes.
The deal reached between the Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos, with support from the Canaries Coalition, guarantees 170 favorable votes, six short of the required majority in the first round. As that is insufficient, Congress will move to a run-off requiring either six extra favorable votes or an abstention by 11 deputies – just enough to reach a simple majority.
The PP is trying to attract either affirmative votes or abstentions from the Socialist Party, even though its leader Pedro Sánchez reiterated on Wednesday morning that this is not going to happen.
Another possibility is for the PP to seek support from regional parties in Catalonia and the Basque Country, as it successfully did when the time came to put together the new Mesa del Congreso, the lower house’s governing body.
However, the recent governing deal signed by the PP and Ciudadanos, which stresses the unity of Spain, seems a tough sell in regional circles considering the pro-sovereignty tendencies of both the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and Catalan Democratic Party – the heir to Convergència.
Could there be several investiture attempts ?
If Rajoy fails on September 2, there could be several more investiture attempts between then and November 1, when new elections must be automatically called. In theory, the king could ask Rajoy to try again, or else turn to candidates from other parties. It is even theoretically possible for candidates who are not even deputies in Congress to step up to the plate, since the only requirements set out in the Spanish Constitution are for the prime ministerial candidate to have Spanish citizenship and be of legal age.
Could other candidates have a go ?
Yes, just like Rajoy could choose to try again. Once the king announces a new round of talks, it is up to political parties to tell him what kind of support they can count on. “Any candidate with a chance of securing a large enough majority has to tell the king about it,” says Alberto López Basaguren, a professor of constitutional law at Basque Country University.
How may times may an investiture be attempted ?
As many times as the king asks candidates to try in the two months between this week’s vote and the dissolution of parliament. “It can be as many as are materially possible,” says Basaguren. The main thing, says this expert, is for parties to work hard on offering the monarch working options for a functioning government.
What if both Rajoy and Sánchez tell the king they want to bid for the post ?
It does not depend on a candidate’s personal desire to do so. In this case, the king would tap the candidate with the greatest chances of attracting a large enough majority. Felipe VI would come to this conclusion after his talks with all political forces in parliament.
If there are third elections in Spain, will they be the last ?
Not necessarily. According to Article 99 of the Spanish Constitution, “if following a period of two months starting after the first investiture vote, no candidate obtains the trust of Congress, the king will dissolve both chambers and call new elections.”
“From a constitutional, legal point of view, elections could be repeated indefinitely,” explains López Basaguren.
Could a third election be held at an earlier date ?
As per the deadlines set out in the Spanish Constitution and in voting laws, the new campaign would begin on December 9 and last 15 days; the election would be on December 25, coinciding with Christmas Day.
If Rajoy fails to get himself reinstated, the Socialist Party says it will propose a legal reform to cut the campaign times by half. This would make December 18 the new election date.
How long can Spain have an interim government ?
The caretaker government is a constitutional device to make sure that there is never a lack of executive. That means that for as long as Congress does not deposit its trust in a new prime minister, Spain will continue to have an interim government. “There is no time limit. It depends on how long it takes to form a new executive based on congressional trust,” explains López Basaguren.
What would happen if the budget approval gets delayed ?
If there is no time to have a new budget ready by January 1, 2017, the 2016 budget would remain in force. This means that no new measures could be approved, and no new tenders made. Regional and local governments would also have less money to work with.