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Ramón Tamames (L) and VOX leader Santiago Abascal (R) SUR
A notable absence

A notable absence

Coming as it does in an election year, the Conservatives' abstention from voting should be an antidote to complacency on Sánchez's part

Mark Nayler

Friday, 24 March 2023, 13:53

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The no confidence motion tabled this week by Vox against Pedro Sánchez backfired with a very loud bang. Apart from one member of centrist Ciudadanos, the only ministers to back the motion were from the party that instigated it. Overall, Sánchez won with 201 votes against, 53 in favour and 91 abstentions.

Internal tensions within Vox were also exacerbated by its leader Santiago Abascal's bizarre choice of alternative prime minister - the 89-year-old economist Ramón Tamames, formerly a senior member of the Spanish Communists.

Vox's failure means that, out of the six no-confidence votes that have been held since Spain's return to democracy in the 1970s, the only successful one remains that tabled by Sánchez against Conservative leader Mariano Rajoy in 2018.

This is the second occasion on which Abascal has organised a no-confidence motion against the Socialist leader.

He lost the one in 2020, too, but there was a crucial difference this time around. Whereas the Popular Party (PP) voted against Vox three years ago, this time it abstained; indeed its leader Alberto Feijóo, who sits in the Senate rather than in Congress, wasn't even present for the debate.

Coming as it does in an election year, the Conservatives' abstention should be an antidote to complacency on Sánchez's part. Could it signify that his two main adversaries are paving the way for a national partnership, modeled on the coalition that's already in power in Castilla y Leon?

The PP's anti-Vox rhetoric was certainly more subdued this time. During speeches before the no confidence vote of October 2020, the Conservatives' then-leader Pablo Casado launched a vitriolic attack on Abascal, with who he had previously maintained good relations. Declaring the motion to be "much ado about nothing, like everything you do", Casado argued that the right wing group was playing directly into the Socialists' hands: "The left has been wanting a party like Vox for 30 years", he thundered. Abascal said that he was "puzzled" by this volley of abuse, presumably as much by its content as its source.

Contrast Casado's very personal denunciation with the reaction of mild-mannered Feijóo this week. The 61 year-old Galician veteran, who took over from Casado as the PP's national leader in April last year, merely remarked that Vox's second attempt to unseat Sánchez provided a "broken coalition" with an "opportunity to unite".

Whether or not this short-lived victory will enable the Socialists' to smooth over their disagreements with Podemos, though, remains to be seen.

Even if relations within the coalition are improved, Sánchez can't relax. He might have won this week's vote, but PP's conspicuous abstention should be cause for concern.

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