Socialists and Unidas Podemos to form government as political deadlock broken in Spain
After months of political crisis, including two legislative elections in one year, Spanish Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez was officially invested as president of the government of Spain on Tuesday, having won a vote in the chamber of deputies by the slightest of margins – 167 in favour versus 165 against, with 18 abstentions.
In his speech on the rostrum of the Chamber of Deputies, Sánchez said he was “committed to seeking solutions to avoid such political blockages in the future”, implying a possible constitutional reform. On Wednesday, he will announce the composition of his coalition government with the left-wing Unidas Podemos party, and on Friday, the Council of Ministers will meet for the first time.
Pedro Sánchez first came to power in June 2018 thanks to a censure motion that united all parties against the centre-right government Mariano Rajoy, which had become embroiled in several massive corruption scandals.
However, when Catalan separatists and other opposition parties blocked the passage of the 2019 budget, Sanchez was forced to dissolve the government and call for elections, which were held in April.
While the Socialists won the elections, they fell short of an overall majority and failing to negotiate an agreement with Unidas Podemos to form a government, Spain went back to the polls in November. The sharp rise in the number of seats won by the far-right VOX party seemed to focus minds on the left and within 48 hours the Socialists and Unidos Podemos signed a preliminary agreement to form a coalition government.
However, even with their combined seats, the two parties still relied on the support of smaller regional groupings, and crucially, the abstention of the 13 elected Catalan independence politicians from ERC (Left Republican of Catalonia), whose leader, Oriol Junqueras, is currently serving 13 years in prison for the 2017 secession attempt.
To win over the Catalans, the PSOE agreed to sign a “non-agression pact” with ERC which characterises the Catalan question as a “political conflict” to be resolved through dialogue between Madrid and Barcelona, rather than through judicial means.
The program of the future government includes a partial repeal of the labour market reforms introduced by the previous right-wing government in 2012, the regulation of rents, an increase in taxation for businesses (with a minimum rate of 15% for large companies and 18% for banks and oil companies) as well as on individuals earning more than 130,000 euros per year. The new government also plans to further increase the minimum wage to 1200 euros per month.