Spain’s King Felipe starts new round of talks with political leaders to find next prime ministerial candidate

SPAIN’S King Felipe VI on Monday began a new round of meetings with Spain’s political leaders, ahead of the nomination of a new candidate for prime minister. 

The talks come after the Popular Party (PP) leader Alberto Nuñez Feijoo failed to find the support from lawmakers in the Congress of Deputies to take power at his own investiture debate. 

Feijoo won the general election on July 23 but fell well short of a majority. Since then he has failed to muster up sufficient support to form a government, and at last week’s two votes in Congress he was only backed by his own party, far-right Vox and two small groups. 

That was not enough for the absolute majority needed at the first vote (176 votes in the 350-seat chamber), nor for the simple majority needed at the second vote (i.e. more yes votes than no votes). 

Feijoo was the first candidate for an investiture vote to be proposed by King Felipe, on the basis that he had won the most votes at the election. 

King Felipe VI and PP leader Alberto Nuñez Feijoo
King Felipe VI and PP leader Alberto Nuñez Feijoo meet to discuss the investiture vote, on August 22, 2023. EFE/ Sebastian Mariscal Martinez POOL

During the round of talks initially held between the monarch and Spain’s political leaders, Feijoo had made it clear that he did not count on sufficient support to win the vote. But despite that he was proposed as a candidate and the debate and votes went ahead anyway.

This time, the caretaker prime minister, Pedro Sanchez of the Socialist Party, is expected to be the candidate proposed by King Felipe. 

Sanchez has insisted in recent weeks that he has the votes needed to see him voted back in as prime minister. 

However, his party also fell well short of a majority at the general elections and he requires the backing of a range of groups. 

These include new leftist bloc Sumar, which absorbed Sanchez’s former coalition partner Unidas Podemos as well as other parties such as the United Left (IU).

Catalan separatists

But the situation is complicated by the Socialists’ need to rely on the support of Catalan separatist parties such as the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and Together for Catalunya. 

These groups have a series of demands in exchange for their support, the most significant of which is an amnesty for anyone involved in the 2017 push for independence in the northeastern region. 

Sanchez has yet to announce that such an amnesty will actually happen, but the ERC has publicly claimed that it has been agreed. 

While King Felipe is due to meet with nearly all the leaders of the political parties today and tomorrow, there will be some absences. Both ERC and Together for Catalunya are refusing to speak to the monarch, as are pro-Basque independence group Bildu and pro-Galician independence party the Galician Nationalist Bloc, in all cases due to their anti-monarchy stance. 

Sanchez will meet with the king on Tuesday morning, meaning that he could be proposed as the candidate for a new investiture debate by the afternoon. 

Should that happen, the debate is likely to take place on the week of October 17. If Sanchez fails in his bid to form a government, and no other candidate manages to do so either, fresh elections will be called for early 2024.

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