Spain’s Sanchez Handed a Gift as Opposition Alliance Ruptures

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was given an unexpected boost on Wednesday as a burst of infighting among the Spanish right put one of his biggest critics at risk.

A sequence of shock events began in Murcia on the Mediterranean coast and resulted in the conservative president of the Madrid region, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, calling a snap election in a bid to hang on to her job.

Spain’s Sanchez Handed a Gift as Opposition Alliance Ruptures

Diaz Ayuso, of the center-right People’s Party, governs in an uncomfortable coalition with Ciudadanos, an erstwhile liberal party that changed tack to target PP supporters over recent elections.

Ciudadanos triggered the disruption when it joined with Sanchez’s Socialists to back a no-confidence motion in the PP-led administration in Murcia. Ayuso, in response, announced she was dissolving the Madrid assembly and, almost at the same time, the Socialists called another no-confidence motion, in a bid to topple the regional leader without facing the voters.

“This is important for the government,” said Antonio Barroso, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence in London. “But it is more important for the future of the right. This could undermine the PP’s ability to form governments.”

If Ayuso can force through an election, she may yet save her position. If her opponents get a chance to vote against her in the legislature instead, she’s set to be ousted. As of Wednesday evening, it wasn’t clear which option would prevail.

Spain’s traditional two-party system has broken up over the past six years with the emergence of new groups that forced both the PP and the Socialists into new alliances at local, regional and national levels. Ciudadanos has been in the middle of those negotiations, shifting back and forth between the two establishment parties.

Sanchez governs in a minority coalition with the far-left group Podemos and the opposition is split between the PP, Ciudadanos and the far-right group Vox.

The 49-year-old prime minister had been betting on a couple years of relative calm to focus on rebuilding an economy that has been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. Spain faced four national elections between 2015 and 2019, as well as a no-confidence vote in 2018 that saw Sanchez oust the PP from power in the national parliament.

Instead, he sought to capitalize further and the Socialists filed the day’s third regional no-confidence vote in Castilla y Leon, to the north of the Spanish capital, where the PP is also trying to hold together a difficult coalition with Ciudadanos.

The turmoil also raises questions over Andalusia, Spain’s most populous region, where the PP forged an alliance with Ciudadanos in 2019 to oust the Socialists who had been in power for 36 years.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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