Rajoy exit likely as Basque party says it will vote against him

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Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is poised to be unfrom office after the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) gave its decisive support to a no-confidence motion over a corruption case, making it all but certain to succeed.

During a debate on the motion in the Spanish parliament on Thursday, PNV party spokesperson Aitor Esteban said the party’s support was in line with the will of the Basque people. 

“We believe we are responding to what most Basques want and best complying with our responsibility by voting ‘yes’,” he said.

The PNV’s support means the motion is likely to exceed the 176 votes necessary to pass and force Rajoy from office.

On Monday, Spain’s parliament announced that Rajoy would face a vote of no confidence on Friday, following Thursday’s debate.

The main opposition Socialist party filed the motion on May 25, one day after 29 people linked to Rajoy’s People’s Party (PP) were convicted of crimes, including embezzlement and money laundering in a long-running corruption trial.

With only 84 seats in parliament, the Socialists need to secure the support of regional nationalist parties, as well as that of left-wing Podemos party, which has said it will vote against Rajoy, in order to pass. 

Pedro Sanchez, the Socialist party leader, was proposed as a replacement for Rajoy in the motion and has promised to hold new elections “within months” if the vote succeeds. 

Despite calls from all major parties for Rajoy to step down, Maria Dolores de Cospedal, a senior PP member, said on Thursday that he will not resign ahead of the no-confidence vote.

Tainted by corruption

The PP has been dogged by allegations of corruption since 2013, when the first accusations emerged.

Since then, the Gurtel case, as the trial is known, has become one of the largest corruption scandals in the country’s recent history, implicating figures in the worlds of politics and business. 

The investigations led to a no-confidence vote in Rajoy’s leadership in 2017, which he survived.

In the May 24 ruling, Spain’s National Court found that former PP officials accepted bribes in exchange for contracts between 1999 and 2005.

Following the ruling, Rajoy said that the convictions did not affect any member of his government and pledged to serve out his four-year term. 

Opinion polls regularly show corruption is a major concern in Spain after high unemployment.

Rajoy heads a minority government and his party, with 134 seats, counts on the support of the centrist Ciudadanos party’s 32 deputies and several others.

However Ciudadanos, the current leader in Spanish opinion polls, is refusing to support Rajoy, instead calling for a new general election, which they hope their leader, Albert Rivera, could win.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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