Spanish prime minister to face confidence vote on Friday
By Sonya Dowsett
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will face a vote of confidence in his leadership on Friday as corruption convictions handed down to dozens of people linked to his Partido Popular threatened his six-year rule.
Spain's parliament agreed yesterday that the debate and vote would take place on Thursday and Friday, although the opposition Socialists who proposed the vote may struggle to garner enough support in the fragmented legislature to unseat Mr Rajoy.
Opposition parties are taking advantage of Mr Rajoy's weakness after 29 people linked to the PP were convicted last Thursday of crimes including influence-peddling and falsifying accounts, in the culmination of a long-running corruption trial.
The PP has closed ranks behind Mr Rajoy, who said on Friday he intended to serve out his four-year term and that the corruption convictions did not affect a single member of his government. The 63-year-old survived a no-confidence vote last June.
"We are deeply sorry that there were people who used the PP for self-enrichment," party spokesman Pablo Casado told a news conference on Monday, adding that the no-confidence vote was irresponsible and put Spain's economic stability at risk.
PRESSURE FROM OPPOSITION
Ciudadanos, ahead in opinion surveys and the most likely to win a snap election, urged Mr Rajoy on Monday to call an early poll, saying his government was weak and tainted by corruption.
The Socialists have proposed their leader Pedro Sanchez as a replacement for Mr Rajoy. The party, with just 84 seats in parliament, must get at least 176 votes to carry its proposal.
Leftist party Podemos, with 67 seats, has said it will support the motion, but that would not be sufficient. The Socialists would also have to seek backing from small regional parties who would attach politically difficult conditions in return for their support such as the freedom of Catalan politicians from custody.
Ciudadanos said on Saturday it would be willing to work with the Socialists to support a neutral candidate to oust Mr Rajoy, whose minority government has been damaged by a crisis sparked by Catalonia's independence vote.
However, Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera said on Monday he was not prepared to seek pacts with "regional nationalists and populists" to oust Mr Rajoy and that elections in the autumn would be preferable. (Reuters)