Spain's right-wing leader fails in first bid to become prime minister

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Alberto Nunez Feijoo, leader of the People’s Party, speaks during a protest rally in Madrid, Spain on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023.

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Spain’s right-wing opposition leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo on Wednesday failed to gain the absolute majority of parliamentary votes needed to become prime minister.

Feijoo received 172 votes in favor of his mandate in the Wednesday session — four short of the absolute 176 majority needed from the 350-strong parliament. The remaining 178 members of parliament voted against Feijoo, and there were no abstentions. Feijoo has yet to get the support he needs despite his election win in the summer, and the support of the hard-right party Vox.

Feijoo, who was granted the first chance to form a government in August by Spanish King Felipe VI, has another opportunity on Friday. He only needs a simple majority. If he fails, the acting prime minister and leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, Pedro Sanchez, has two months before parliament dissolves and elections are held on January 14, to go through a similar process. Fresh polls are not so unlikely — Spain had to hold two elections in both 2015-16 and in 2019 before a candidate obtained power.

Feijoo’s uphill battle for support has proven arduous, amid mainstream criticism over allied Vox’s views, such as opposing abortion rights and denying climate change.

The Popular Party gained a boon of support in recent days, as at least 40,000 people took to the streets to protest Sanchez’ possible plans to extend amnesty to Catalan separatists, according to Reuters.

A potential pardon could bring on the side the support of self-exiled former Catalonia leader Carles Puigdemont’s Junts per Catalunya. Puigdemont, who was pursued in Spain for his failed secession bid six years earlier, called on Sep. 5, to “eliminate any judiciary action that would be against the independence” of Catalonia. The 1st of October was not a crime,” according to an official translation.

On Monday, Raquel Sans, the spokesperson for the Republican Left of Catalonia, urged Sanchez to “address the substance of the political conflict” between Madrid and Catalonia, if he wants to win power, noting “we already agreed on the amnesty,” according to a Google translation.