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The margin was so tight that it even seemed, for a moment, that the Spanish government's labour reform decree had been defeated. This was even announced by the speaker of Congress, Meritxell Batet, leading to stunned expressions on the faces of prime minister Pedro Sánchez and deputy PMs Nadia Calviño and Yolanda Díaz. But it was just a slip and the fright only lasted seconds. Nevertheless, all this happened because there was only a single vote in it. The two deputies of Navarra's conservative UPN rebelled against the orders of their party and instead of the required yes, opted for 'no'. And this would have made the difference if it had not been for an error: a PP deputy, who voted online, made a mistake. Thus, Yolanda Díaz's labour reform passed with more than a stroke of good luck - but could have been wrecked. The PP tried in vain to have the vote repeated. The session ended with shouts of "A fix, a fix".

Thus, by the skin of its teeth, the Congress of Deputies gave the stamp of approval to the new labour regulations of Yolanda Díaz with support from Ciudadanos (Cs), Catalonia's PDeCAT and an amalgam of small parties who handed over their votes without asking for anything in return. On the other hand, none of the usual allies of the government in this legislature, such as Catalonia's ERC, and the Basque parties PNV and EH Bildu came aboard. They found the changes insufficient, demanding minimal improvements, but their efforts smashed against the wall built by both government partners, PSOE and Unidas Podemos. On the way, wounds were opened that will take time to sew up again.

It was not until this Wednesday evening that the votes necessary for validation came together. In the end there were 175 votes in favour - exactly half of the 350-member house - after a series of small parties came into the fold. The usual allies were sought out: the left wingers of Més País and Compromís, the two Canarian parties (CC and NCa) and the Cantabrian MP (PRC). But also from a part of the right, both the Spanish right (Cs) and the pro-independence right (PDeCAT). In the end the dissenting Navarra deputies of the UPN said no too, saying that "in politics the only thing you cannot do is something that you can't explain to your voters."

The opposition to the labour reform reached a total of 174 votes. Against were the Popular Party (PP) and far-right VOX, but also the rest of the pro-independence parties. Even the key allies who supported the formation of the Sánchez government and maintained the legislature, who were considered "priority" by the government until about suddenly they are not: ERC, the PNV and, at the last minute, EH Bildu. A split with the left-wing, plurinational block has become visible. From the parliamentary lecturn, Cs leader Inés Arrimadas boasted that "today, thanks to Ciudadanos, ERC and Bildu lose."


Collision with ERC

The collision was put into evidence in particular by Yolanda Díaz and Gabriel Rufián. Second deputy PM Díaz accused those who have voted against of basing their stands on "superficial debates" and favouring "partisan rivalries." Díaz regretted some of the descriptions that she says she has heard for the labour reform in recent days - "personal projects", "smoke" and "cosmetic". "Eight million contracts will become stable. That is the content that we are discussing today. Eight million contracts are not smoke, honourable members, they are people who will now have a decent job," said Díaz.

Rufián, ERC's leader in Madrid, responded from the same lecturn. "If you sell a motorbike and it turns out to be a bicycle, and you say that at least it has wheels, you are lying and trying to pull a swindle," he said. The Catalan politician asserted that there was no-one willing to listen in the central executive: only "pressure" and "denial". And Rufián insisted: "We don't ask that you fulfill ERC's promises and manifesto, but your own promises and manifesto". And he finished with a question: "People voted for us to do as we are doing. And you? ". Aitor Esteban, PNV spokesperson, also warned that "consensus cannot be imposed".

The relationships were strained, and severely, between the Spanish government and its allies for the investiture and key legislature votes. But in spite of everything, all the parties admit that, for mutual benefit, things must be changed. ERC sources admit that they have experienced "very unpleasant moments", but they point out that, once passed, they are willing to take the initiative to "reconstruct" the left-wing, plurinational bloc. EH Bildu expressed itself in the same terms.

Junt and the CUP, also on the offensive

The rest of the pro-independence parties were also highly critical. Míriam Nogueras of Junts recalled how the government promised to repeal the 2012 labour reform of the PP and it ended up as "putting on a patch" with support from "the usual ones and those up the back". She said that this "social dialogue" has left out "99.8% of the Catalan business fabric" - because they are small and medium-sized businesses. "They have turned their backs. They have given way to those who the PP gave way to in 2012 ", she criticized. And she concluded: "Social dialogue in Spain does not speak Catalan."

Albert Botran of the CUP also underlined that the government had failed to meet its commitment to repeal the labour reform of 2012 which severely reduced workers' rights. "You only have to compare what they demanded and what they have brought us, to see that those who did not keep their word are the PSOE and Unidas Podemos". The far-left deputy described it as a "fiasco" that it wil be passed thanks to parties of the right and he asked: "With what credibility will you stand in the next elections?"

On the opposite side of the argument was Ferran Bel, from the PDeCAT, which voted in favour of the government's reform. The MP recalled how he voted for both the reform of 2012 and the current one, and said he was in accordance with the changes introduced. He wanted to "congratulate" Yolanda Díaz, the unions and business groups for having reached this "consensus".