The caretaker prime minister will need to secure an absolute majority at the first vote or a simple majority at the second if his bid to get back into office is to prosper
The speaker from Spain’s lower house of parliament, the Congress of Deputies, on Tuesday informed parliamentary groups of her intention to timetable an investiture debate on January 4 and 5. If the candidate, caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, does not secure a majority of votes in the 350-seat house at the end of that debate, a second vote will be held on January 7.
Sánchez, of the Socialist Party (PSOE), won the November 10 repeat election but, as at the previous vote in April, fell short of an absolute majority. Since the polls last month he has been seeking the support of other parties to be voted back into office. Sánchez has already closed a coalition deal with leftist anti-austerity party Unidas Podemos, but will still need the support and abstention of several key parties if his bid is to prosper and Spain is not forced to hold its third general election in a year – the fifth in five years.
The debate will begin on January 4 with a speech from Sánchez during which he will lay out his policies
The formal tabling of the investiture debate will take place on January 2, when the timings of the days will be made official. The debate will begin on January 4 with a speech from Sánchez during which he will lay out his policies. Opposition leaders will then have 30 minutes to set out their reasons for either supporting or voting against his candidacy as prime minister. Sánchez will be able to respond to each of them should he wish.
On January 5, once all of the parliamentary groups have taken part in the debate, a vote will be held. Sánchez will need an absolute majority – 176 votes in favour – if he is to prosper in the first round. If, as is likely, he falls short of that number of yes votes, the session will be suspended. Congress will reconvene on January 7 and Sánchez will once again address the assembled deputies – this time just for 10 minutes. Opposition chiefs will have five minutes to respond.
At that point another vote will be held, at which a simple majority – more yes votes than no – is needed for Sánchez to be voted back in as prime minister. The PSOE politician already counts on 161 votes, but he will need the key abstention of the 13 deputies from the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) party. This group has called a national council meeting on January 2 to confirm whether or not it will abstain. The ERC has been engaged in talks with the PSOE for weeks now and has been demanding a series of concessions with regard to the political situation in Catalonia, which has been immersed in an independence drive for several years.
The Socialist Party was hoping that the debate would begin on January 2
The PSOE was hoping that the debate would begin on January 2, but the decision of the ERC to delay its national council meeting until that day put paid to this plan. PSOE and ERC chiefs are both counting on the abstention of the Catalan party, but the caretaker prime minister opted to respect the timetable set out by the ERC.
The timing of the first debate is unusual, not just because it will fall on a weekend, but also because January 6 is Kings’ Day. A public holiday, this is the day when Spanish children traditionally receive their Christmas presents, which are left for them on the night of January 5 by the Three Wise Men. January 5 is also the day when many towns and cities across the country hold their Kings’ Day parades, which feature colourful floats carrying the Three Wise Men.