Rajoy Digs In Threatening Rivals With Third Spanish Election

  • Acting premier ignores liberals’ demands for concessions
  • Socialists reiterate their rejection of Rajoy despite pressure

Mariano Rajoy threatened rivals with a fresh round of elections if they continue to block his bid for a second term in Spain as talks with the liberals of Ciudadanos stalled and the Socialists insisted they’ll oppose him.

The caretaker prime minister said Spain will “most likely” be heading to the polls for the third time in a year if he can’t persuade at least some Socialists to abstain in a confidence vote in parliament. If he fails, the only alternative would be a new ballot, Rajoy said.

Ciudadanos Party negotiating team members Juan Carlos Girauta, Miguel Gutierrez, Jose Manuel Villegas and Luis Garicano and Juan Carlos Girauta following a meeting with Spanish Socialist Party and Podemos party on April 7.

Ciudadanos Party negotiating team members Juan Carlos Girauta, Miguel Gutierrez, Jose Manuel Villegas and Luis Garicano and Juan Carlos Girauta arrive for a press conference after a meeting with Spanish Socialist Party and Podemos party at Spanish Parliament in Madrid on April 7.

Photographer: Javier Soriano/AFP via Getty Images

“It’s possible for us to reach a deal with Ciudadanos, but it won’t be enough,” he told reporters in Madrid. “Even if we get to 170 seats, we’d still be running short. We need at least 11 abstentions” in the 350-member legislature.

The 61-year-old met behind closed doors with top officials from his People’s Party to assess six conditions Ciudadanos put forward as a prerequisite for their support in ending an eight-month stalemate in the national parliament. Rajoy said his party had granted him full powers to begin negotiations, but officials did not discuss Ciudadanos’ demands, which include a parliamentary probe into alleged corruption in the People’s Party. He has denied wrongdoing.

Earlier Wednesday, Ciudadanos said that their conditions were non-negotiable. The pro-market reformers had also called on the prime minister to set a date for his confidence vote as well as for an overhaul of the electoral system. Rajoy ignored those demands, arguing there is no point in setting a date unless he has the necessary votes lined up.

Ciudadanos Undersecretary Jose Manuel Villegas said party leader Albert Rivera would meet Rajoy on Thursday but insisted they won’t talk about facilitating a government unless the caretaker premier accepts their terms and sets a date.

The Socialists, the second biggest force with 85 seats in parliament, reiterated their rejection of Rajoy’s candidacy despite mounting pressure from senior Socialists to end the deadlock. Party leader Pedro Sanchez insisted his party will vote against Rajoy under any scenario and urged him to set a date for the confidence vote before Friday.

Rajoy said he aims to meet Sanchez as early as this week to get a better sense on where the Socialists stand, as well as holding talks with Rivera. After increasing the People’s Party’s support in the June election compared with the previous ballot in December, Rajoy has urged the Socialists to move aside, but has so far failed to make them switch positions.

Under Spanish law, a candidate for prime minister needs the support of a majority of lawmakers to take office in the first round of voting. In a second ballot, 48 hours later, a plurality would be enough. In either case, Rajoy would almost certainly need at least some Socialists to abstain.

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