Spain's government faces no confidence vote over graft


Madrid (AFP)

Spain's government on Tuesday faced a vote of no confidence tabled by the far-left Podemos to denounce a series of corruption scandals that have hit Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative party.

The motion is unlikely to succeed as a majority of lawmakers plan to vote against it or abstain, but it is once again shining the spotlight on the ruling Popular Party (PP), whose reputation has been damaged by graft case after graft case.

"You have more (party) members under investigation than lawmakers in the lower and upper houses," Irene Montero, a 29-year-old Podemos lawmaker, told parliament before enumerating cases hitting the PP.

"You want to normalise the plundering of public coffers, normalise spending cuts... you want to normalise the deterioration of our health system," she said, as Rajoy sat listening.

Pablo Iglesias, the charismatic leader of anti-austerity Podemos, will then outline his project for Spain as an alternative prime ministerial candidate, if the vote of no confidence were to succeed.

But this is unlikely.

Rajoy may be at the head of a minority government, but the PP still has 137 lawmakers out of a total of 350.

They will all vote against the motion, as will the 32 MPs of centre-right party Ciudadanos.

The main opposition Socialists, who have 85 parliamentary seats, plan to abstain in the vote, which could take place later Tuesday or Wednesday depending on the length of the debate.

This is only the third vote of no confidence to take place in Spain since the 1977 transition to democracy after the death of dictator Francisco Franco, and none have ever succeeded.

Corruption is a major issue in Spain, which last year scored its worst ranking in Transparency International's annual corruption perceptions index.

It has mainly hit the PP, with even Rajoy called to appear as a witness next month in a major graft trial involving members of his party.

But the Socialists and regional politicians have also had their share of scandals.

Such is public anger over the issue that many voters flocked to Podemos and Ciudadanos, two relatively new parties, in general elections last year.

Opinion polls regularly show that after sky-high unemployment, corruption is Spaniards' main concern.