BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spain’s parliament dismissed an attempt by the far-right Vox party to topple the governing leftist coalition on Wednesday, voting overwhelmingly against a no-confidence motion brought against Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's government.
The motion only earned the support of Vox’s 52 lawmakers plus one rogue vote, for a total of 53. The government received 201 votes, while the 91 members of the conservative Popular Party, the chamber’s leading opposition party, abstained.
In a move that was slammed by other political parties, Vox leader Santiago Abascal broke with custom and didn’t stand as an alternative prime minister. Instead, Vox chose an independent candidate in a futile attempt to win wider support.
Ramón Tamames, 89. a former communist leader who has journeyed across the political spectrum, was the losing candidate. The economist had pledged that his only act as prime minister would have been to immediately call for a national election to coincide with local elections scheduled for May 28.
Tamames presented himself and Vox as protectors of the unity of Spain against Catalan separatist parties that Sánchez has relied on to win important votes in parliament.
This is the second time that Vox, an upstart party that resists criticizing Spain’s 20th-century dictatorship, blasts feminism and links unauthorized migration with increased violence, has lost a no-confidence vote against the current government after also failing in 2020.
Unlike French President Emmanuel Macron, who barely survived two no-confidence votes on Monday during ongoing protests against his raising of the retirement age from 62 to 64, Sánchez was never in danger of being ousted.
“We knew that this bizarre attempt would flop,” Sánchez said before the vote in Madrid's Congress. “The only goal of this destructive no-confidence motion was to push Spain back 50 years (into the dictatorship of Francisco Franco).”
During the two days that lawmakers needed to debate and vote on the motion, rival opposition parties took turns blasting Vox for wasting their time in what they described as a “circus.”
Vox, which has suffered from in-fighting in recent months, hopes to make a strong showing in the local elections and in Spain's general election at the end of the year. If the party surpasses Sánchez's Socialists and the left-wing United We Can, the junior member of government, in the December election, it would try to force the conservative Popular Party into a national coalition.
The Popular Party tried to maintain a low profile before and during the no-confidence motion. Party leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo, who is not a member of Congress, did not attend the sessions, and the party's lawmakers abstained from the vote.
Its parliamentary spokeswoman, Cuca Gamarra, called the motion by Vox an “inconceivable gift to the government” as it faces its worst internal crisis over a controversial sexual violence law.
Sánchez claimed that Spain’s conservatives, who already rule the region of Castile and Leon in a coalition with Vox, would open the door of the nation's government to the far-right come year’s end.
“Now, the Popular Party’s leader remains quiet, and with his silence he says it all: that he will need Vox to govern,” Sánchez said. “That is why the Popular Party has chosen this unacceptable abstention.”
Gamarra defended the Popular Party, saying it “has no commitments other than to our own political ideals” and that its abstention was out of “respect to Señor Tamames.”