Read in Catalan

Alberto Núñez Feijóo has taken another step this Wednesday towards converting himself into leader of the opposition in the Spanish parliament. The People's Party (PP) president has missed his first opportunity to replace Pedro Sánchez in Madrid's Moncloa palace after being defeated by an absolute majority in the first vote on his investiture as Spanish prime minister. The 178 'no' votes of the major left-wing groups the Socialists (PSOE) and Sumar, the Catalan parties ERC and Junts, the Basque groups EH Bildu and the PNV, and the Galicians of the BNG exceeded the 172 affirmative votes of the right-wing PP and far-right Vox, plus the Coalición Canaria and the UPN of Navarra. It was, in summary, a debate overshadowed by the amnesty and the figure of Carles Puigdemont. The Catalan president-in-exile was the artifact employed by the right and the extreme right in an attempt to wear down Pedro Sánchez, with the knowledge that in the coming days the focus will be, more than ever, on the telephone connection between Socialist headquarters in Madrid and Puigdemont's Casa de la República in Waterloo, Belgium.


In 48 hours' time - on Friday - Feijóo will try his luck with a second investiture debate. If in the first round the leader of the PP needed an absolute majority - 176 votes - to obtain the keys to the Moncloa, on Friday he will only need a simple majority. In other words, more affirmative votes than negative. This is why in the last few days the PP has appealed to potential defectors in the ranks of the PSOE, seeking a handful of discontented Socialist deputies who will abstain so that the right-wing bloc can overtake the left. There is nothing to indicate that this will happen, and, little by little, the path is beginning to look clear for Pedro Sánchez to start negotiations with the pro-independence parties, which will pivot around an amnesty law.

The acting PM hopes that the next step in the process, king Felipe VI's new round of contacts with the parliamentary groups, will take place next week, and that the Spanish head of state will select Pedro Sánchez as candidate for the investiture as soon as possible. After weeks of the PSOE criticizing the PP for taking so long to celebrate Feijóo's investiture, it would be strange to think that the Socialist leader's bid would not be put to the lower house later than the end of October. But for now, Spanish government sources refuse to speculate on this matter.

Feijóo already attempted, this Tuesday, to convert his investiture debate into a debate on the proposed amnesty for independence process prosecutions, and to set up a face-to-face confrontation with Sánchez on this issue. He failed on the both counts. The Socialist leader had an ace up his sleeve to destroy the strategy of the PP president: he assigned the PSOE's speech in reply to one of his PSOE deputies and in this way killed two birds with one stone: avoiding the direct face-off with his PP rival - since Sánchez did not speak in the debate at all - and showing up the conservatives' double standard in insisting on their right to govern as the largest single party in the Spanish election of July 23rd. The latter, because the deputy chosen for the reply, Óscar Puente, lost the mayoralty of Valladolid last June to a PP-Vox deal, despite his Socialist mayoral ticket having won the most votes in the local election.

In fact, Feijóo accepted defeat in his last speaking turn this Wednesday and used his time to reproach Pedro Sánchez for failing to debate with him from the podium. "I'm leaving with my political integrity intact", said Feijóo as he ended the first round of the battle, adding: "We have all revealed our true selves with our words and our silences".

The three-times magic number: 178

With today's vote, Pedro Sánchez has starred in three parliamentary photographs taken since the beginning of this fifteenth Spanish legislature and which bring him closer to achieving a second mandate. In the first, the figure of 178 votes in favour - an absolute majority, with two votes on top - enabled Francina Armengol to be elected as speaker of the Congress of Deputies, replacing Meritxell Batet, in mid-August. As a result of that agreement between the PSOE and the Catalan independentists, Armengol undertook to normalize the use of Catalan, Basque, Galician and Aranese in the Congress of Deputies and, to approve the regulation changes to make it possible. And here, the Socialists once again had the support of the same multilingual majority of 178 MPs. Sánchez's great hope is that he can achieve the same sum in a few weeks' time to be elected as prime minister for a second mandate.


Despite Feijóo's overwhelming victory in Spain's municipal and regional elections on May 28th, the Galician politician has been accumulating problems since the snap general election held two month's later. The PP's insufficient victory on 23rd July justified Sánchez's gamble in calling an early poll, making it clear that the conservatives' dependence on Vox's votes in its local and autonomous community triumphs has generated a rejection effect that is difficult to digest across the rest of the Spanish political spectrum. The far right has indisputably contributed to the isolation of Feijóo, who had his first setback in the configuration of Congress's Bureau: Armengol won the race to be speaker over Gamarra, while Feijóo bowed his head from his seat.

King Felipe VI's decision to designate the PP leader as candidate for the investiture gave Feijóo a one-month margin, but in the end it has been too much time. For the whole of September, the PP remained stuck at its ineffective figure of 172 votes and Feijóo surrendered to the extremist soul of the party, represented by José María Aznar and Isabel Díaz Ayuso. This tandem set the pace and pushed Feijóo to call an event in opposition to the amnesty - of which no details are as yet known - scheduling it in Madrid for two days before the first investiture debate. The aim was to generate a sense of national emergency across Spain that would threaten and destabilize the PSOE's negotiations with Junts and ERC. But in view of the facts, the PP has never believed in the investiture and has been focusing on the next steps for days.


Junts and ERC ignore Feijóo, focusing on amnesty and self-determination

Together for Catalonia (Junts) and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) spent little time during the investiture debate of Feijóo explaining that they would vote against his candidacy. That was already a given. Instead, the focus was on the amnesty and self-determination. The Junts leader in Madrid, Míriam Nogueras insisted on the need for an historic agreement that involves the de-judicialization of the independence process and the inclusion of a mediator in a dialogue process that must be limited only by international treaties.



But the Junts MP also warned that the goal for Catalonia is to become an independent republic, that an amnesty alone will not solve the fundamental problem, because "there is no autonomous community recipe to solve the problems of Catalonia". The same message was also given by the leader of the Republicans in Congress, Gabriel Rufián. "The amnesty is not the end, it is the return to politics; either this includes a way out that enables the people of Catalonia to vote on their political status or it will be of very little use; an amnesty for the events of October 1st 2017 must lay the foundations for a new referendum," he stated.