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Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez loses first round of investiture vote

The Socialist Party candidate fell short of the absolute majority he needed in Congress today, meaning a second vote will be held later in the week

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Pedro Sánchez during the investiture debate on Monday.

Acting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez failed on Tuesday in his first attempt to be voted back into office, falling short of the absolute majority he needed in Congress to be succesful in the first-round investiture vote by deputies.

Of the 350 deputies in Congress, four were absent – the Catalan independence leaders who are currently in jail awaiting sentencing for their roles in the 2017 breakaway bid in the northeastern Spanish region. That, however, did not change the arithmetic in the chamber, as Sánchez still needed 176 votes – half the house plus one – to prosper in his bid to get back into office.

Sánchez asked Unidas Podemos for generosity and the PP and Ciudadanos to vote responsibly

In the end, after a day and a half of debate, he secured 124 votes in favor: 123 from his own Socialist Party (PSOE) and an extra one from the small Regionalist Party of Cantabria (PRC), There were 170 votes against and 52 abstentions. Among the no votes were the conservative Popular Party (PP), center-right Citizens (Ciudadanos), far-right Vox and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC).

Nearly three months after winning the general election, Sánchez has been trying until the last minute to put together enough of a majority to form a government. His last words before the vote on Tuesday were to ask Unidas Podemos for “generosity” and to urge the PP and Ciudadanos to vote “responsibly.”

If he fails in the second vote on Thursday – at which he only needs a simple majority of more yes than no votes – Spain could be facing a fresh election in the fall, the fourth in less than four years.

The PSOE has called a meeting of its executive committee to analyze the state of negotiations with Podemos

Despite a comfortable victory at the general election in April that gave him 123 seats in the lower house of parliament, Sánchez’s Socialist Party (PSOE) was left well short of the 176 required for an absolute majority. And 80 days of talks with the anti-austerity Unidas Podemos, the Socialists’ most likely partner, have yet to yield any clear results.

The latter group, led by Pablo Iglesias, announced shortly before today’s vote that it would abstain as a gesture toward the PSOE. The two groups have been at loggerheads over exactly which positions – including ministries and the role of deputy prime minister – would be granted to Unidas Podemos once a government was formed.

Outside of the chamber today, acting Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo reiterated her party’s offer for the left-wing group, which includes a deputy prime ministerial role for social issues for Podemos’ Irene Montero.

The PSOE has called a meeting of its executive committee to analyze the state of negotiations with Podemos ahead of Thursday’s second investiture vote.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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