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Acting PM Mariano Rajoy to attend investiture debate on August 30

Tentative deal struck with Ciudadanos. If incumbent fails in bid, third election could be held on Christmas Day

Acting Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will attend an investiture debate in Congress on August 30. The first vote, at which he will need to secure an absolute majority in order to be reinstated as the country’s prime minister, will be held on August 31, while the second, at which a simple majority will suffice, will take place on September 2.

The date was agreed today with the speaker of the house, Ana Pastor, after Rajoy met with the leader of emerging center-right group Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera. The latter politician had imposed a series of six conditions on Rajoy and his Popular Party (PP) before he would consider supporting the conservative force at an investiture vote.

Among those conditions was a promise to combat corruption within his own party, as well as a commitment to setting a date for the investiture debate. After Rajoy’s agreement today with the conditions set out by Ciudadanos, the two parties will now begin to negotiate the vote in favor of Rajoy from the group’s 32 deputies.

If Rajoy were to fail to win the investiture vote – as happened to the Socialist Party’s Pedro Sánchez several months ago, who also secured the support of Ciudadanos – the clock would start ticking on a third general election, after the inconclusive polls in December 2015 and June 2016, both of which saw the PP garner the most votes but fall short of an absolute majority.

According to the calendar, Spaniards could be called out to the polls on December 25, an unheard of date for Spanish elections.

“I am in a position to attend the investiture session when the speaker of Congress believes it to be opportune,” Rajoy told reporters earlier today after accepting the six conditions that had been set out by Ciudadanos to begin negotiations to support the PP.

“At least this clears a path, a blocked one, the only one possible, so that we can all forget about third elections,” says Ciudadanos leader Rivera

“I have asked him to sign the anti-corruption pact and he assured me he would sign it,” Rivera told reporters after meeting with Rajoy.

But even if the leaders are successful with their negotiations, the PP candidate will still not have enough support to be voted in as prime minister in the first round. For that he will need the support of the main opposition Socialist Party (PSOE), or in the second round, where just a simple majority is needed, 11 abstentions.

“I will ask Sánchez for his assistance,” Rajoy said on Thursday. “I will try to talk to him.”

Rivera stated once more, however, that he has no intention of forming part of a possible Rajoy government, and said that while he had not had any contact with the PSOE, he called on party leader Pedro Sánchez to “reflect with a sense of the state.” Sánchez has so far been unwilling to either support Rajoy in an investiture vote or abstain in the second round of voting, thus making way for him to be reelected as prime minister.

“At least this clears a path, a blocked one, the only one possible, so that we can all forget about third elections,” the Ciudadanos leader told reporters.

“It’s the time for negotiation, to talk about Spaniards and their problems,” he explained after his meeting with Rajoy, which lasted just over an hour. “Being useful is much more important that believing that you are important. If there are any politicians who are banking on a third general election, I want to say that they must banish that from their minds. This country is going to establish a minority government and a plural parliament. There are some who are playing with the patience of Spaniards. It is the time to start work.”

On August 10, Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera gave Rajoy the six-point memorandum of conditions the PP would have to meet if it wanted his party’s support in forming a minority government. Rajoy then waited a week before meeting with PP leaders regarding the demands.

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Ciudadanos’ six points are that Rajoy must set a date for his investiture debate in Congress, expel party officials targeted in corruption investigations, end judicial privileges for elected officials, change electoral law, end amnesties and pardons in corruption cases, limit the prime minister’s mandate, and create a parliamentary commission to look into the so-called Barcenas case involving illegal cash payments to PP officials.

Rajoy’s party won the most seats at the general elections in December and again at the repeat vote in June, but failed to secure a majority both times around, garnering 137 seats at the latter poll.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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