Spain faces general election after budget defeat

Spain faces general election after budget defeat

Right-wing and Catalan separatist MPs have rejected Spain’s draft 2019 budget, which could force Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez into calling an early election, its third general election in less than four years.

Sanchez’s Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), who took power in June last year with the parliamentary backing of 17 Catalan MPs, needed their votes to enact the reforming administration’s first budget but they withdrew their support.

The PSOE only has 84 of the 350 seats in congress.

Sanchez is due to make an announcement on his next steps tomorrow (Friday) after the weekly cabinet meeting, amid speculation an election could be called for April or May.

The next general election is currently due to be held in 2020.

Ever-unreliable opinion polls point to a right-wing majority in parliament with the resurgent far-right.

The socialists are ahead in polls with around 30 per cent of voting intentions but the two main right-of-centre parties together poll at more than 30 per cent. In Spain’s most populous region, Andalusia, they unseated the Socialists last year in alliance with the extreme-right Vox.

Sanchez’s party accused conservatives and Catalonian separatists of blocking a budget that included generous social spending.

“Progressive forces in this country are at a critical moment due to this neo-liberal and far-right wave that is impregnating advanced societies,” Budget Minister Maria Jesus Montero told the lower house.

The right-of-centre People’s Party accuse the Socialist government of “high treason” for negotiating with Catalonia’s separatist administration after a secession attempt in October 2017.

The party’s leader, Pablo Casado, called the budget defeat “a de-facto confidence vote” against Sanchez. “Today in congress, we’ve spearheaded a decision, which, I think, marks a turning point in the legislature,” the conservative said. “Or, to put it another way, it marks the end of Pedro Sánchez’s time as prime minister.”

The Socialist budget also contained an increase in Catalan investment.

However, independence leaders are currently on trial for their role in the 2017 movement, leading Catalan MPs separatists filed amendments to block the budget last week.

Parliamentarians approved their amendments yesterday (Wednesday) with 191 votes in favour in the 350-member chamber, defeating the budget.

The Catalan leaders on trial, including former regional Vice President Oriol Junqueras and nine other former ministers, face up to 25 years in jail each on charges of rebellion, disobedience and embezzlement.

On Friday, talks between Madrid and the Catalan administration broke down, angering separatist MPs.

Jesus Montero said the Madrid government “doesn’t want nor is it able to negotiate outside the walls of the constitution”, which does not recognise any region’s right to secede.

Spain is still reeling from the 2017 independence crisis. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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