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Spain’s PM calls snap general election for 28 April

Third general election in less than four years comes after national budget rejected

WT24 Desk

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has called a snap election for 28 April after Catalan secessionists joined rightwing parties in rejecting the socialist government’s national budget earlier this week, The Guardian reports.

The country’s third general election in less than four years was seen as an inevitability following Sánchez’s defeat on Wednesday.

“Between doing nothing and continuing without the budget, and calling on Spaniards to have their say, I choose the second. Spain needs to keep advancing, progressing with tolerance, respect, moderation and common sense,” Sánchez said in a televised address to the nation following a cabinet meeting. “I have proposed to dissolve parliament and call elections for 28 April.”

Sánchez’s PSOE, which holds 84 of the 350 seats in congress, relied on the support of Basque and Catalan nationalist parties to seize power from the conservative People’s party (PP) in a confidence vote last year.

But the two main Catalan pro-independence parties – the Catalan Republican Left and Catalan European Democratic party – voted with the PP and centre-right Citizens party on the budget, defeating it by 191 votes to 158, with one abstention.

A general election had been due next year.

Sánchez wants a ballot as soon as possible to mobilise left-leaning voters against the threat of the right coming to power.

The PSOE are ahead in opinion polls, which give them about 30% of voting intentions, but the two main right-of-centre parties together poll more than 30%. In Spain’s most populous region of Andalucía, they unseated the socialists last year with the help of the far-right party Vox.

Sánchez’s government has taken a more conciliatory approach to the Catalan question than its predecessor, and he has met the Catalan president, Quim Torra, on several occasions.

The separatists, however, said they would only support the budget if Sánchez agreed to discuss self-determination for the region. That would have cost the PSOE votes in the rest of Spain where a majority want to preserve the nation’s territorial integrity.

“We are prepared to talk and find a solution within the constitution but not outside of it,” Sánchez said on Friday. Many Catalans are dismayed that the separatists joined forces with right-wing parties to bring down Sánchez. The Barcelona mayor, Ada Colau, described it as a grave error.

Since the transition to democracy in 1978, Catalan and Basque nationalists have played the role of kingmaker to a series of minority governments. That role might now fall to the centre-right Ciudadanos party, which appears willing to go into coalition with either the PSOE or the PP if it means a taste of power.

The great unknown is the impact of Vox, which recently emerged from the shadows to take 11% of the vote in December’s elections in Andalucía, a socialist stronghold.

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