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Deadlock over: Mariano Rajoy sworn in as Spanish prime minister

The PP politician was successful at an investiture vote on Saturday after Socialists abstained

Mariano Rajoy is sworn back in as Spanish prime minister.

Mariano Rajoy of the conservative Popular Party (PP) was sworn back in as prime minister on Monday, after winning an investiture vote in Congress on Saturday. After 10 months of political deadlock, the abstention of the main opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) was essential for him to be successful at the vote. The PP had won the most seats at general elections held in December and June, but had fallen well short of a majority. Rajoy will now preside over a minority government after Spain’s political parties failed to work out a coalition deal.

Monday’s ceremony took place in La Zarzuela palace in the presence of Spain’s King Felipe VI. Rajoy will present his new government this Thursday. The ceremony lasted just four minutes, and afterwards Rajoy was congratulated by those present. The event marked the first such ceremony for Felipe VI since he came to the throne after the abdication of his father, King Juan Carlos. For Rajoy, it was his second time, after the elections of November 20, 2011, at which his party won an absolute majority at the polls.

The country’s political scene has been thrown into an unprecedented period of turbulence

The king is scheduled to officially open the XII Legislature in the middle of the coming week.

The swearing-in of Rajoy brings to an end 10 months of an acting PP government, in the wake of the two general elections that have brought about an end to the two-party system that had been in place in Spain since the end of the Franco dictatorship at the end of the 1970s.

Since the first election in December, the country’s political scene has been thrown into an unprecedented period of turbulence, with the four most-voted political forces – the PP, PSOE, emerging center-right group Ciudadanos and leftist anti-austerity bloc Unidos Podemos – unable to reach governing deals. Over that period, Spain has celebrated two regional elections, five rounds of consultations on governing deals with the king, and three investiture votes.

During the failed XI Legislature, Rajoy rejected the offer from the king to form a government given that he knew he lacked the support to get through the investiture votes (at the first of which an absolute majority of 174 votes is needed, and at the second a simple majority). The king then made an offer to the second-most voted force, the PSOE, to form a government. The then-leader of the PSOE, Pedro Sánchez, reached a deal with Ciudadanos to secure the party’s support, but with no votes forthcoming from other parties, nor abstentions, the bid was unsuccessful.

Pedro Sánchez’s leadership came under attack from Socialist rebels, eventually forcing him to resign

The general election held on June 26 gave Rajoy a total of 137 seats in Congress, 14 more than in December, but still insufficient to govern without the support of other parties. The PSOE managed 85, five fewer than in December.

On this occasion, the PP reached a deal with Ciudadanos on 150 key policy issues. But the PSOE’s refusal to abstain in the second round of voting pushed Spain dangerously close to a third general election, which would likely have been held on Christmas Day due to Spain’s strict voting timetable.

Pedro Sánchez’s leadership then came under attack from rebels within his party, eventually forcing him to resign. An interim management committee decided the PSOE should step aside, abstain, and allow Rajoy to form a minority government and thus avoid the unprecedented possibility of a third visit to the polls in just a year.

On Saturday, a total of 68 abstentions from the PSOE in the second round of the investiture vote allowed for Rajoy to be voted back in, with 170 votes from the PP, Ciudadanos and the Canarian Coalition. But there is no guarantee of stability for this upcoming legislature, with Rajoy well aware that he will have to hammer out deals and find support with other parties in the chamber if he is to pass legislation and get things done.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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