MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s parliament started debating on Wednesday a motion of no confidence in Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez launched by the far-right Vox party, with analysts and politicians expecting it to fail amid a growing power struggle on the right.
Among other accusations, Vox argues the minority leftist government has botched the handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Spain has the most cases in Western Europe, nearing 1 million, and is in its worst recession since the 1930s civil war.
The vote is expected on Thursday, but Vox’s 52 seats in the fragmented 350-seat lower house are well short of the 176 needed to bring down the coalition that only came to power in January, ending a long period of paralysis and repeat elections.
The main conservative opposition People’s Party (PP), with 88 lawmakers, has rubbished Vox’s motion and also criticized its anti-European rhetoric during the debate, increasing the likelihood that it will vote against.
“This is not a no confidence motion, this is a joke. Its uselessness makes a circus show out of it,” PP Secretary-General Teodoro Garcia Egea told reporters, even though opinion polls show a majority of conservative voters back the motion.
That could benefit the anti-immigration, ultra-conservative Vox, already the third largest force in parliament.
“Voters on the right show broad support for the motion’s political rationale regardless of the already known null consequences it will have,” Andres Medina, head of polling and analytical firm Metroscopia, told state broadcaster RNE.
Vox leader Santiago Abascal promised to form an emergency government and call a new election if he wins the vote, labelling the current administration Spain’s worst in at least 80 years and the world’s worst at handling the pandemic.
In a tongue-in-cheek response, Sanchez said the vote was doomed to failure. “This could be a very helpful censure vote because it will be useful to see the majority of the Spanish people’s representatives block their project of hatred, shock and fury,” he told parliament.
(Additional reporting by Belén Carreño; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Andrew Cawthorne)