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Socialists prepare for power as Spanish government set to collapse

By Chronicle Staff and agencies

Spain's Partido Popular government appeared doomed last night to lose a no-confidence vote in parliament, with the centre-left PSOE poised to take power.

A Basque nationalist party's decisive announcement that it would vote in favour of the motion spelled the almost certain end of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's mandate and foretold the stunning collapse of his minority government in a parliamentary vote today, when it will be short of support to survive.

If the vote goes though, Mr Rajoy will be the first Spanish prime minister to lose a no-confidence vote.

Last night Maria Dolores de Cospedal, the secretary general of the PP, denied persistent rumours that Mr Rajoy would resign ahead of the vote, speculation fuelled by the fact that he did not attend the afternoon session of the debate on Thursday.

If the vote goes ahead today and Mr Rajoy loses, PSOE leader Pedro Sanchez- who tabled the no-confidence motion - would immediately replace him.

The impending downfall of Mr Rajoy's government after ruling for nearly eight years came just days after the PP’s reputation was badly damaged by a court verdict that identified it as a beneficiary of a large kickbacks-for-contracts scheme.

The unexpected development injected a new element of tension into European Union politics and global financial markets, already unsettled by Italy's struggles to install a government since a March 4 election.

Under a Spanish law that prevents a power vacuum, Mr Sanchez would immediately become the new leader of the 19-country eurozone's fourth biggest economy and a prominent EU leader at a time when the bloc faces numerous challenges.

Unlike Italy's potential new leaders, Mr Sanchez has not expressed scepticism about the EU nor the continent's single currency, both of which are broadly popular in Spain.

For Gibraltar, a PSOE government in Spain, even if short-lived ahead of a general election, could open an opportunity to progress speedily with delicate ongoing discussions about the Rock’s post-Brexit future relations with Spain and the EU.

While the Socialists share the core Spanish aspiration over the Rock, they also favour dialogue and good cross-border relations, as evidenced by their participation in the trilateral process when last in government.

But yesterday the political landscape in Spain was fractured and in turmoil, with passions running high.

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