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Thursday, May 31, 2018
Sánchez to Spanish PM Rajoy: ‘Quit and This Will Be All Over’
Socialist leader says ‘corrupt’ conservatives
aren’t fit to govern
Corruption is Everywhere - Obviously in Spain's governmentBy DIEGO TORRES
MADRID — Spanish Socialist Pedro Sánchez demanded Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s resignation Thursday as a condition for stopping a no-confidence vote whose success now hangs on five Basque lawmakers.
“Quit, señor Rajoy, and it will be all over,” the leader of the opposition Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) said at the start of a two-day parliamentary session that, if he succeeds, would install Sánchez as prime minister and make Rajoy the first Spanish leader to be ousted via a motion of no confidence.
Lawmakers will vote on the motion on Friday, presuming that Rajoy does not follow Sánchez’s advice and resign beforehand — something he has adamantly refused to do so far.
Five lawmakers from the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) were expected to announce later on Thursday whether they would back the PSOE leader or not.
The Socialists launched the initiative to oust Rajoy following a court ruling earlier this month in which 29 people, including former senior officials from the prime minister’s conservative Popular Party (PP), were sentenced to a total of 351 years in prison for corruption.
Rajoy warned lawmakers in Congress: “You need to be aware of what you’re going to do.”
Sánchez presented the motion of censure, which includes his own candidacy for the post of prime minister, in Congress by accusing the conservative leader of asking Spaniards to accept corruption “as a chronic illness that you want to heal by looking to the other side.” He defended the “unquestionable moral strength” of his own initiative.
Rajoy counterattacked by listing the many graft cases involving Sánchez’s PSOE over the years. “Are you [Mother] Teresa of Calcutta?” the conservative leader asked at one point. “There is corruption everywhere, as you well know because you’re near it.”
Rajoy also hit back by arguing that the only reason behind Sánchez’s bid for power is “his little confidence in reaching the premiership the way everyone else does — that is, by winning at the ballot box.”
The Socialists came second behind the PP in the 2016 general election, though both now face a serious challenge from the fast-growing centrist party Ciudadanos, which wants new elections but has so far declined to back the PSOE’s no-confidence vote.
Sánchez said he would lead a “pro-European” Cabinet guaranteeing “macroeconomic and budget stability.” He promised to respect the 2018 budget approved by the Popular Party with support from Ciudadanos and the Basque nationalists. This was a gesture apparently aimed at securing the support of the PNV, who had managed to secure investments for the Basque region in return for their support for Rajoy’s budget bill.
The Socialist leader also needs the support of Catalan pro-independence parties PDeCAT and the Catalan Republican Left for his bid to oust Rajoy. The latter has all but guaranteed its support to Sánchez and the former is expected to follow the lead of the Basques, and should announce its position later on Thursday.
Although he has firmly supported the anti-independence stance of Rajoy’s government, Sánchez made a nod to the secessionists by promising to promote “dialogue” between Madrid and the separatist regional government in Barcelona while respecting Spain’s unionist constitution.
Rajoy leapt on such apparent contradictions in Sánchez’s remarks to Congress, reminding him that not long ago he accused the new Catalan regional president, Quim Torra, of “xenophobia.”
“We don’t know how you’ve convinced your partners to vote for you. We do know that it won’t be good for Spain,” said Rajoy.
However, in what looked like an admission that defeat was possible, Rajoy warned lawmakers in Congress: “You need to be aware of what you’re going to do.”
At the end of his speech, Sánchez told Rajoy that he still respects him, adding: “I wish you the best.”