Spain’s Rajoy Digs In as Socialists Block Path Into Power

  • Caretaker leader promises time out if he can’t win support
  • Socialist veto prevents Rajoy from ending seven-month impasse

Mariano Rajoy has waited almost seven months to start a second term as Spain’s prime minister and he’s prepared to keep waiting if need be.

Rajoy said Wednesday that he’ll call a time out if he can’t recruit enough support to win a confidence vote in parliament this month, after holding talks with Socialist Leader Pedro Sanchez in Madrid. Sanchez, who heads the second-biggest group in the legislature after last month’s election, said his lawmakers will vote against Rajoy.

“If I was convinced that I couldn’t be elected prime minister, I would open a period of reflection with other parties so we can decide on a way out,” Rajoy said at a press conference. “We are still at an early stage of the process.”

Rajoy is starting talks with rivals after falling short of a governing majority for the second time in six months in Spain’s June 26 election. Rajoy’s People’s Party increased its representation in the 350-seat parliament to 137 lawmakers from 122 in December, but still faces a struggle to win a confidence vote.

Earlier Wednesday, Ciudadanos’s leader Albert Rivera said his 32 lawmakers will help out by abstaining in the second round, when Rajoy just needs more yeses than noes. That’s not enough though, with the Socialists and anti-establishment party Podemos committed to voting against Rajoy.

The caretaker premier is considering Aug. 2 as a possible date for facing a confidence vote in parliament, Europa Press reported, citing a comment from the premier Wednesday. Under Spanish law, the candidate needs the support of a majority of lawmakers to win the vote, while in a second vote 48 hours later, getting more votes in favor than against would be enough to take office.

Sanchez is blocking Rajoy despite pressure from party grandees who say a period in opposition is the party’s best option as it seeks to rebuild after its worst ever election result.

“Mr. Rajoy has to work hard and hold meetings with his potential allies,” Sanchez said at a press conference in parliament. “It’s his responsibility, his duty, to work out how far he needs to go in accepting changes to the status quo to achieve a stable majority.”

The premier said he wants to put his name forward for a confidence vote in parliament if he’s nominated by King Felipe. At meetings this week he gave other party leaders a set of policy proposals that he aims to make the basis for eventual talks on forming a government.

“It’s a proposal based on the constitutional values and based on the consensus,” Rajoy said.

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