Chances of Spain’s two right-wing parties teaming up to form a coalition government improved on Wednesday, when Mariano Rajoy, the acting prime minister, agreed to submit the demands of the smaller Ciudadanos party to a membership vote.
Rajoy told a news conference that he would ask his party’s executive committee, which is made up mostly of loyalists, to vote next week on whether or not to accept six political reforms demanded by Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera.
Rivera’s proposals include ending judicial privileges for elected officials, canceling amnesties and pardons in corruption investigations and limiting the prime minister’s mandate.
He also wants Rajoy’s conservative People’s Party to expel members who have been implicated in graft scandals.
Before the last election, Rivera had said he would condition his liberal party’s participation in a right-wing government on Rajoy’s resignation.
Rajoy rejected this demand, telling 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.”
Since then, the Ciudadanos have lost eight seats and Rajoy has gained fourteen.
The conservative is still short of an absolute majority but nobody wants to call a third election to break the gridlock.
Spaniards voted again in June after the parties failed to come to an accord following the election in December.
The Ciudadanos and Rajoy’s People’s Party are natural allies on policy. Both have a liberal economic program.
But the Ciudadanos‘ appeal also comes from them being newcomers. Making common cause with the establishment People’s Party, which has seen several members named in high-profile corruption cases, could hurt their brand. Hence Rivera’s demands.
Other parties needed
Even if Rajoy’s executive agrees to meet Rivera’s conditions and the Ciudadanos lend their support, the People’s Party leader could still find a majority of lawmakers 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.
That’s not something they will do gladly, especially with the far-left Podemos party breathing down their necks, but it may be the only way to avoid another election.