Catalan and Basque parties voted in favour of a motion of no confidence to oust Spanish president Mariano Rajoy on Friday, thus securing the support needed for Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez to form an alternative government.
The end of Rajoy’s rule in Spain comes a week after his party was convicted in the so-called Gürtel case, a major corruption scandal involving kickbacks-for-contracts.
Pro-independence forces ERC and PDeCAT, as well as the Basque Nationalist party (EAJ-PNV) and EH Bildu, confirmed their support for the motion on Thursday, adding to that of left-wing Podemos and its regional allies, as well as the Socialists (PSOE) themselves.
Ciudadanos failed plan
Rajoy’s main ally, Ciudadanos, urged the president to stop the no-confidence vote by resigning and calling a snap election—a request that fell on deaf ears, as a senior official from his party confirmed later on the day that Rajoy was not planning to step down.
The Socialists and the pro-independence parties joined forces against a common enemy. But theirs was an unlikely alliance. Last October, PSOE backed Rajoy when he imposed direct rule on Catalonia following a declaration of independence. In recent weeks, Sánchez ramped up his criticism against the pro-independence movement. He took on Catalonia’s new president, Quim Torra, for a series of controversial tweets in which he criticized Spaniards, and called him “racist” and “supremacist.”
In an attempt to cool tensions, Sánchez promised to “rebuild bridges” and “set the foundation to normalize the relationship and initiate dialogue between the Spanish and the Catalan governments.” He also promised to meet Catalan President Quim Torra soon.
In his response to Sánchez’s speech, Rajoy accused him of being “indifferent” to the situation in Catalonia and aligning himself with pro-independence parties. “We’re far from recovering normality, but that doesn’t stop you,” he said.
Although confirming their support for Sánchez, pro-independence parties also stressed that voting for him was not easy. ERC’s Joan Tardà warned the Socialists not to try and “trick” Catalonia, which he said was suffering “too much pain” following the measures taken to stop the independence bid. Similarly, PDeCAT spokesman Carles Campuzano told Sánchez that “there is a lot of pain in Catalonia. There is a lot of indignation.”
Sánchez maintains Rajoy’s budget
In a surprise announcement, Sánchez said he would maintain Rajoy’s budget despite voting against it last week. Many saw this as a wink to the EAJ-PNV, which voted in favor of it, as the budget included €570 million in public spending for the Basque country.