MADRID – An attempt by Spain’s far-right party Vox to table a no-confidence motion against the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez flopped on Thursday after two days of heated and divisive debate in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Santiago Abascal’s bid to become prime minister by removing Socialist Party (PSOE) leader Sanchez failed to get any support beyond Vox’s 52 MPs in the lower house of parliament.
A motion of no-confidence requires an absolute majority, which in Spain is 176 of 350 MPs.
All 298 remaining MPs voted against the motion.
The government, a PSOE-led coalition with junior partners, the leftist Unidas Podemos, and a string of smaller parties including Catalan and Basque separatists joined with the no vote.
The Popular Party’s 89 MPs also shot the motion down.
The party’s leader Pablo Casado had held his cards close to his chest for weeks, declining to say whether the bastion of Spanish conservatism would abstain or vote to block the no-confidence motion.
The PP governs with the support of Vox in a number of regional chambers in Spain, including Madrid, Andalusia and Murcia.
Casado used Thursday’s debate to draw a line in the sand between his party and Vox – PSOE and Podemos have accused him pandering to the far-right to chase lost votes – and presented the PP as a “calm, sensible, moderate, responsible and pro-European” alternative to the current government.
PSOE, Podemos and a number of political analysts viewed the motion as a ploy by Vox to exert its dominance over the right-wing of Spanish politics by forcing the PP to state its intentions in a no-confidence vote destined to fail.
Casado, although severely critical of Sanchez’s government, said the PP “did not want to be another party of fear, anger and provocation” but rather one of “liberty and harmony.”
Abascal said the PP’s decision was a blow to the hopes of millions of Spaniards that both parties could work together.
The debate was littered with political and personal attacks.
Abascal took aim at Sanchez in several areas, from his government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic – Spain has just surpassed one million confirmed cases since the outbreak began –, immigration, his reliance on Catalan and Basque separatists to pass legislation and the government’s support of the historical memory law, which looks to address the victims of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and dictatorship of Francisco Franco.
Sanchez responded: “You are not the savior of Spain.
“You have too much pride and too little modesty.”
Spain’s left-wing parties described Vox as “fascist” and accused it of stirring up hatred.
Podemos leader and deputy prime minister Pablo Iglesias said: “Any migrant worker who goes to work every day to provide for their family has more dignity and is more patriotic than each of the far-right parliamentarians.”
Abascal said Iglesias, a republican, brought shame to Spain and its flag for his “attacks” against the royal family.