Spain’s acting prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, edged closer to winning a second term on Tuesday when the head of the fourth-largest party in parliament suggested they might abstain in a confirmation vote.
Albert Rivera, the leader of the liberal Ciudadanos, told reporters after a meeting with Rajoy that the country needs to “get moving” and cannot have a third election.
“We’re not going to be in government,” he said, “but we’re realistic, responsible and constructive.”
Rajoy expanded his plurality in an election last month but failed to win back the absolute majority he lost in December.
A pact with the Ciudadanos makes sense on paper. It broadly shares Rajoy’s liberal economic policy.
But the party has promised its voters not to support a government led by Rajoy personally and the conservative leader isn’t going anywhere.
Before the last election, Rajoy told the Financial Times, “It is rather curious that a party with forty seats in parliament tells a party with 123 seats to get rid of its leader.”
Now the Ciudadanos are down to 32 seats against 137 for Rajoy.
That means even if the Ciudadanos abstain in a confidence vote, Rajoy could still find a majority against him in the 350-seat legislature.
Small separatist parties from Catalonia could put him over the top, but they would demand concessions on Catalan self-government which Rajoy, a Spanish nationalist, is unwilling to give.
More likely, he would need to convince the mainstream Socialists, who have 85 seats, to allow him to stay in power.
It’s not something they’ll do gladly, with the far-left Podemos breathing down their necks, but it looks like the only way to avoid yet another election.