No surprises in the Spanish Congress. The 52 deputies of Vox and one ex-deputy of Ciudadanos (Cs) were left on their own in voting in favour of the extreme right's motion of no-confidence in Pedro Sánchez, as the 88 MPs of the main opposition People's Party (PP), along with two defectors from the UPN of Navarra and one from Foro Asturias all abstained, and the rest of Congress, a total of 201 votes, rejected the idea of converting the veteran economist Ramón Tamames into the prime minister of Spain. In the 'No' category, apart from the PSOE and Podemos, were all the other parliamentary groups, including all the Catalan and Basque parties: ERC, Junts, the CUP, the PDeCAT, Bildu and the PNB. This Wednesday at noon, the debate on the motion ended in the lower house, a parliamentary mechanism that in the last few hours has enabled Sánchez to campaign against the PP, has permitted Yolanda Díaz to present her new party Sumar from her parliamentary seat, has strengthened the PSOE-Podemos coalition, and has showed once again that Catalonia continues to shape the Spanish agenda.
The Spanish government's strategy to address the debate was to take the no-confidence motion seriously. "We are satisfied to have presented our programme", assured sources from the engine room of the Moncloa government palace on Tuesday, after Pedro Sánchez had made a 90-minute speech in which he cast the PP as the punching bag of the Vox motion. "Both the PP and Vox are seeking to eliminate progressive policies", pointed out these same sources, in addition to making it clear that the strategy was based on showing the "two models" with possibilities of forming a government that exist right now in the Spanish state. The only moment of the debate in which the Socialist PM was absent was on Tuesday afternoon, when the turn to speak came for all the smaller parliamentary groups that were not directly part of the motion.
The PSOE leader's strategy was also summarized this Wednesday in the address by the PSOE spokesperson in Congress, Patxi López. "The no-confidence motion has served to demonstrate the trajectory of this government, and that there is a progressive majority", he bellowed, in addition to condemning the PP for trying to make capital from the 'Mediador' case centred on ex-PSOE representative 'Tito Berni', despite the numerous corruption cases that the PP are immersed in. Thus, he predictably defined the no-confidence motion as a "boomerang" against the party led by Alberto Núñez Feijóo.
For her part, the PP spokesperson in the lower house, Cuca Gamarra, had to find a point of balance in order to justify her group's abstention in the motion. The conservatives sought arguments to criticize the initiative of the far-right party, to protect and show "respect" for the figure of Ramón Tamames and to anticipate the end of the Pedro Sánchez legislature. "We will not vote in favour of it out of respect for Spaniards, but we will not vote against it out of respect for you," said Gamarra, referring to the Vox candidate, who, she explained, shares the vision of "the Spain of reconciliation and of the Transition". Having said that, Gamarra pointed out that the real no-confidence motion against Sánchez is likely to take place during this multi-election year, at the ballot box.
Yolanda Díaz presents Sumar and defends the coalition with the PSOE
One of the most significant moments of the motion took place on Tuesday, when Pedro Sánchez ceded his speaking turn in reply to his deputy PM Yolanda Díaz. The labour minister went to the lectern of the Congress of Deputies not only to make a fierce defence of the coalition government but also to make a presentation before parliament of Sumar, the new left-wing political party that has been in the process of gestation for months. She denounced that Tamames was not proposing a "constructive, but a destructive" motion because he should have presented a government programme. Likewise, she regretted the already-anticipated abstention of the PP and the "silence" and "absence" of Alberto Núñez Feijóo in this debate.
Catalonia, Catalan and self-determination
Once again, Catalonia was the protagonist of a large part of a debate in the Congress of Deputies. In the first face-to-face between Pedro Sánchez and Santiago Abascal, the Spanish prime minister asserted his role as the guarantor of Spain's unity and of respect for the Constitution. To defend his record in the Moncloa, Sánchez recalled that before he became president, Spain "came from a Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 2017" and from an "enormous crisis of social coexistence inherited from the PP". He also highlighted the alleged decline in support for Catalan independence and condemned the PP's "confrontation" model towards Catalonia.
Tamames, for his part, was presenting himself as candidate to replace Sánchez, under the Spanish no-confidence vote system which would have seen him automatically become head of a new government if the impossible had happened and he had won the vote. But an integral part of the package he offered were damning statements against the Catalan language, the principle of self-determination and the recent reform of the Spanish Penal Code. The Vox candidate lamented that Spanish "cannot be spoken in Spain", in relation to Catalonia; and he said that the Catalan government is persecuting castellano with the collaboration of the Spanish executive. This is also why he demanded that Catalan school students do a minimum of 25% of their classes in Spanish. And, for the icing on the cake, he asserted that "self-determination does not exist" and complained about the reform of the Penal Code.
In fact, Cuca Gamarra railed against Pedro Sánchez this Wednesday for having "agreed to leave the state unprotected through the repeal of the crime of sedition, favouring the corrupt and allowing his government's partners to openly sabotage basic elements of our politics". "When there were court sentences that it didn't like, the government used pardons against the judgments of the sentencing court and without the intention of obtaining rectification from those who had been sentenced," Gamarra said.