By JOSEPH WILSON
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spain’s leftist coalition government faces a no-confidence vote brought by the nation’s far-right Vox party as lawmakers on Tuesday debated the motion, which has little chance of succeeding.
The vote will be held in the 348-member lower chamber on Wednesday. No other party said that it would support the attempt by Vox’s 52 lawmakers to topple the Socialist-led government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
In a move that has been widely panned by other political parties and Spanish media, Vox leader Santiago Abascal has broken with custom and isn’t presenting himself as an alternative prime minister. Instead, in an attempt to lure votes from centrist and leftist legislators, Vox convinced a former communist party member and university professor to lead the no-confidence measure.
Ramón Tamames, 89, who was a lawmaker in the 1970s and 1980s, has pledged that if the vote were to succeed, his only act as prime minister would be to immediately call for a national election to coincide with a local election already scheduled for May 28.
While Tamames has said that he doesn’t agree with many of Vox’s positions, which include its negation of climate change, unfounded charges that migrants are linked to more violent crimes, and its attacks on feminism. But he said that he does share the party’s concerns regarding Catalan and Basque separatism.
Vox announced its intention to bring the no-confidence motion after Sánchez’s government reformed laws on sedition and embezzlement to relieve the legal pressure on Catalan separatists last December.
“Señor Abascal, the candidate that you have presented is simply a decoy for you to hide behind and for you to hide your despicable political agenda,” Sánchez said to the organizer of the vote.
“Should I apologize?” Abascal asked, with irony, in his defense. “Our intention was not to degrade the historic legacy of this legislature. We cannot degrade it more than you already have.”
The traditional conservatives of the Popular Party, who lead the parliamentary opposition to the government, have said that they will abstain. Popular Party leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo has criticized the vote as only handing a parliamentary victory to Sánchez, and as unnecessary with a general election due in December.
Sánchez’s coalition with the leftist United We Can party, which governs in a minority supported by smaller regionalist, and even separatist parties in the Catalonia and the Basque regions, is trying to recover from a a recent split over what to do with their own sexual consent law that has inadvertently led to reduced prison terms for hundreds of convicted felons. The partners are hoping to restore their reputation as executors of progressive, and effective, laws before Spain takes on the European Council presidency in July.
Political observers say that Vox is trying to gain traction before a busy election year where it aims to become key to conservative governments in town halls in May before the big prize at the end of the year when it hopes to enter a coalition with the Popular Party in the national government.
“The majority of no-confidence votes in Spanish politics are destined to lose from the start, but they are also known as a chance for the party that presents them to be in the spotlight,” Montserrat Nebrera, analyst and former lawmaker of the Popular Party in Catalonia, told The Associated Press.
This is the second time that Vox has brought a no-confidence vote against the current government. Its first attempt to topple Sánchez in October 2020 for his handling of the coronavrius pandemic and replace him with Abascal flopped.