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Spain’s socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is potentially facing the end of his time in office after the country’s parliament rejected his draft budget for 2019.
His Catalan allies, who help to prop up his government, suddenly withdrew their support. Sanchez has been accused by conservatives of treason for negotiating with Catalan separatists – whose leaders are currently being prosecuted.
These negotiations broke down last week, and the Prime Minister has been in turmoil ever since. As all this drama was unfolding, a large right wing rally took place in Madrid last weekend, where it is believed up to 100,000 people marched through the streets. It is thought to be one of the largest ever political rallies in the country, and this is not surprising because right wing parties across the country are seeing their popularity rise.
It is not only the conservatives who are gaining the trust of voters, but also the new populist party, Vox, which recently succeeded in local elections. The socialist government has adopted an open borders policy with regards to migrants crossing the Straits of Gibraltar, something which has angered a large swathe of the population. This has in turn rescued the political fortunes of Spain’s right wing, which only 7 months ago seemed lost and without a cause.
On Wednesday afternoon, an official for Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said that he would make an announcement after a cabinet meeting on Friday. This is highly unusual, and many are speculating that because he cannot pass a budget through parliament, he will be forced to call a snap general election. The other option is that, in an effort to appease the opposition, he names the date of an election which will take place slightly further afield.
Sanchez only came into office last year, which shows just how quickly he has fallen, and also how quickly the right wing has recovered. Spain is still suffering staggering levels of unemployment among the young, and its national debt-related problems still cast a shadow over both Madrid and Brussels.
With the European Parliamentary Elections just a few months away, this could not have come at a worse time for the European Commission.
Sanchez, along with Macron and Merkel, is one of the few remaining pro-mass migration heads of state remaining in the bloc.
Sanchez’s Catalan allies have also stated that they will only allow his budget to pass if Catalonia is given a ‘self determination’ referendum, despite a referendum on independence being held less than 18 months ago. The Prime Minister may use this olive branch as a means to remain in power; however King Felipe would almost certainly condemn and possibly act against such a move. The King is firmly against succession, and has the constitutional power to manoeuvre if he feels the need to. Crisis lies ahead.