Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has managed to get his budget through Congress with the smallest possible majority.
176 out of 350 deputies voted in favor of his spending plan.
The liberal Ciudadanos threw in their lot with Rajoy’s conservative People’s Party.
In doing so, they risk the ire of voters in their home state of Catalonia, where Rajoy is reviled for blocking an independence referendum.
But they ought to be thanked by center-right voters elsewhere. Had the Ciudadanos not backed Rajoy, Spain might have had to call snap elections, the third in as many years.
To put him over the top, Rajoy seduced small regionalist parties: the Christian democratic Basque Nationalist Party, the conservative Canaries Coalition and the center-left New Canaries. The three have seven seats in Congress between them.
More forceful opposition
The far-left Podemos and separatist parties voted against the budget.
It wasn’t entirely certain the mainstream Socialists would too. They allowed Rajoy to stay in power last year by abstaining from his investiture — but only after moderates had forced out the party leader, Pedro Sánchez.
Sánchez got his revenge two weeks ago, when he won an internal leadership election. He promised to lead a more forceful opposition to Rajoy in a bid for left-wing voters. It looks like that started this week.
Rajoy’s budget barely meets the EU’s deficit target due to last-minute spending concessions, even though 2.5 percent growth has buoyed tax collection.
Among other things, the plan proposes to make 250,000 temp jobs in education and health care permanent and give all public-sector employees a 1 percent pay rise.