Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s time appears to be running out. The three largest opposition parties have called for early elections after prominent members of his People’s Party were found guilty of corruption.
Rajoy leads a minority conservative government. He has been relying on the support of the liberal Citizens to pass legislation.
Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez took the initiative on Friday, calling for a vote of no confidence.
He argued only a new government can “recover the dignity of our democracy.”
Dozens of people linked to the People’s Party were convicted this week for using an illegal slush fund between 1999 and 2005 to finance their political campaigns. Rajoy himself has not been implicated, although the judge called his denials of involvement “not credible”.
The far-left Podemos and left-wing Basque separatists support Sánchez. If the Catalan pro-independence parties do too, he would be only one vote short of a majority.
Which is why the Citizens play a key role. They have said they might back Sánchez unless Rajoy calls early elections.
“We support a democratic solution,” party leader Albert Rivera said: “either Rajoy calls elections or there is a censure in parliament.”
The Citizens are up in the polls. They accuse Rajoy of not taking a hard enough line against the Catalan independence movement, a charge that is resonating with center-right voters.
The Socialists and Podemos, by contrast, feel uneasy about Rajoy delaying the restoration of Catalan home rule.