Rajoy Faces Aug. 30 Confidence Vote in Bid to End Spain Deadlock

  • Premier’s party to begin formal talks with liberals Friday
  • Rajoy still needs more support to take office for second term

Spain’s Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will face a parliamentary confidence vote for the end of the month in his bid to form a government as he inched closer to breaking the country’s political gridlock in discussions about an alliance with the liberal party Ciudadanos.

The vote will go ahead on Aug. 30, the speaker of parliament, Ana Pastor, said in a televised statement Thursday. Earlier in the day, Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera said Rajoy will sign a six-point deal that includes a probe into alleged corruption in the premier’s People’s Party, opening the way for the two groups to explore a parliamentary pact.

“Ciudadanos has unblocked the situation,” Rivera told reporters in Madrid after meeting Rajoy. “If anyone is thinking about a third election, they should forget about it.”

After almost eight months of deadlock, the People’s Party will begin detailed policy discussions with Ciudadanos on Friday, Rajoy said. He didn’t confirm, though, that he’d committed himself to a corruption probe.

“We’ve taken a decisive step to form a government and avoid a third election,” Rajoy told a news conference at the parliament building. “I’m ready to undergo a confidence vote.”

Fragmented Legislature

Spain’s highly fragmented legislature means the support of Ciudadanos alone won’t be enough for Rajoy to succeed. The 61-year-old will need at least 11 lawmakers from other parties to abstain, and on Thursday he renewed his appeal to the Socialists, the second biggest party, to stand aside and let him govern. If the Socialists didn’t back down, Rajoy had previously said, Spain would be facing a third election in a year.

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.

Spanish politicians are trying to forge a new political consensus after a five-year economic slump and a wave of graft allegations against establishment politicians, and Rajoy’s PP in particular, fueled a widespread revolt against the status quo. Ciudadanos and the anti-austerity group Podemos emerged to claim about a third of the seats in parliament between them in December’s election, creating an unprecedented stalemate that June’s re-run did little to solve.

After losing a share of the traditional leftist vote to Podemos, the Socialist party is seeking to re-establish its credentials. On Wednesday, party leader Pedro Sanchez doubled down on his pledge to vote against Rajoy, despite calls from senior Socialists to let Rajoy govern.

“We want a clean and fair government, and that’s not a Rajoy government,” he told reporters. “That’s why we’ll vote no.” Rajoy has denied any wrongdoing.

The first survey published by the state pollster after the June repeat ballot showed the Socialists increasing their share of the vote, albeit marginally, while the rest of the parties lost support. The PP was still leading by a wide margin.

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