MADRID (AP) — Spanish lawmakers on Thursday were set to reject a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez that was called by far-right party Vox over what it says was the government's poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last year, Vox became the third-largest force in Spain's lower house with 52 of 350 parliamentary seats — a long way from the 176 votes needed to replace the left-wing coalition led by Sánchez.
Spain has reported 1 million confirmed infections — the highest number in Western Europe — and at least 34,000 deaths from COVID-19, although experts say the number is much higher since many cases were missed because of testing shortages and other problems.
Opposition leader Pablo Casado announced Thursday that the 88 lawmakers of his conservative Popular Party would vote against Vox's motion and lambasted the far-right party for “wasting everybody's time” with the debate as the country grapples with a resurgence of the virus.
“This motion is one more lie from Vox for Sánchez to remain in Moncloa,” Casado said in reference to the palace where the prime minister’s office is located. “Don’t mislead Spaniards, please.”
By choosing to vote against rather than abstaining, Casado cleared up the main question of a vote that was set to fail from the beginning in the fragmented Congress of Deputies.
The Popular Party has been very critical of Sánchez's minority government, but Vox’s recent rise has come at the expense of Spain’s traditional right-wing force. Many analysts had seen Vox's motion as both an attempt to erode the Socialist-led coalition and a direct challenge to Casado, forcing the opposition leader to take a public stand on hot-button issues for the right-wing electorate.
Vox leader Santiago Abascal responded by saying that Casado's position was showing the true colors of the Popular Party.
“It seems that today you have removed your mask and you have joined the brutal caricaturizing of Vox,” Abascal said.
One by one, parties from the left and right had lined up since Wednesday against the far-right's skepticism of the European Union and its promotion of Spanish nationalism and for taking positions against illegal migration or laws that protect women from abuse.
Pablo Iglesias, leader of the far-left United We Can party, which is part of the ruling coalition, told Casado that his speech distancing his party from Vox was “brilliant,” but came too late.
“You gave oxygen to the monster and the monster is now devouring you,” Iglesias said.
The no-confidence vote is scheduled for later Thursday.