Spanish Socialist Party leaders decided on Sunday to give conservative prime minister Mariano Rajoy a second term, ending ten months of political gridlock at the risk of growing their far-left competitors.
Rajoy has won two elections in a row since December but each time fell short of the required majority. In order to stay in power, he needed the Socialists — the second largest party — to abstain in a confidence vote.
The party refused to under the leadership of Pedro Sánchez, who tried to form a center-left government of his own. He was forced out last month by moderates who feared the Socialists’ continued intransigence would hurt them with centrist voters.
Sánchez and his loyalists, on the other hand, worried that helping Rajoy, who is responsible for public-sector spending cuts and liberal economic reforms, would appall leftists who now have an alternative in the Unidos Podemos. This new party won 71 seats to the Socialists’ 85 in the most recent election.
Rajoy’s People’s Party has 137 seats. It is supported by the 32 deputies of the liberal Ciudadanos.
Enough Socialist Party deputies will probably abstain to give Rajoy a mandate, although they are not legally bound by the decision made on Sunday by the party’s 250-member federal committee.