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Following budget defeat, Spanish PM will announce date for general election

Executive sources said the Socialist Party leader will unveil the date after the Cabinet meeting on Friday

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo in Congress.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo in Congress. AFP

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will on Friday announce a date for a new general election, said sources in the executive.

Government sources suggest elections could be called for April 28

The announcement will take place after the Cabinet meeting. Government sources have suggested April 28 as a possible date, although this will not be confirmed before Friday.

The decision to call a national election comes after Congress on Wednesday rejected the Socialist Party (PSOE) government’s spending plan for 2019. The next general election was due to be held in 2020.

During two days of debate in Spain’s lower house, the government made a last-bid attempt to convince other parties to back the plan, but the opposition of pro-Catalan independence groups – as well as that of the conservative Popular Party (PP) and center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) – was the nail in the coffin of the government’s proposals.

The majority that saw Sánchez’s motion of no confidence against Rajoy prosper has now been shattered

Sánchez came to power in June 2018 after filing a successful motion of no confidence against former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, of the conservative Popular Party (PP). However, since then he has been in a weak position in Congress, with just 84 seats in the 350-seat house, with 176 votes needed for a majority. As such, he needs the support of parties such as left-wing Podemos, the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and the Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT) to pass legislation, including his 2019 budget plan.

But the ERC and PDeCAT had been threatening for over a week to withhold their support for the 2019 budget, if the government did not make more concessions over the issue of Catalan independence and the trial of the pro-independence leaders involved in the 2017 illegal referendum in the region and subsequent declaration of independence. The court case began in the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

In the end they made good on their threats, with their deputies in Congress rejecting the budget in conjunction with Asturias Forum, Canarian Coalition, the PP and Ciudadanos. This is despite the fact that the latter two parties have been long calling for the renewed suspension of Catalonia’s regional powers under Article 155 of the Constitution, which was used by the PP in the wake of the 2017 unilateral declaration of independence in the Catalan parliament.

In the second session of the debate this morning, deputies from left-wing Unidos Podemos and En Comù Podem, as well as the spokesperson from the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), joined the calls from the PSOE for the pro-independence parties to back the budget. But their efforts were in vain. The budget has been rejected and sent back to the government, and the clock is now ticking for a general election. The majority that saw the motion of no confidence against Rajoy prosper has now been shattered.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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