At no-confidence debate, Spain’s PM urges opposition PP “not to fall into the abyss of the far right”

Vox leader Santiago Abascal launched blistering attacks against the coalition government, calling it “social-communist,” “criminal” and “illegitimate,” among other epithets

Spain’s far-right party Vox on Wednesday accused the center-left government of “destroying Spain, the rule of law and the constitutional monarchy” on day one of a highly charged debate inside Congress, which has been asked to consider a no-confidence motion filed by the ultranationalist group.

Party leader Santiago Abascal and Ignacio Garriga, a Vox lawmaker for Barcelona, launched blistering attacks against a government that was variously described as “social-communist,” “criminal,” “illegitimate,” “unconstitutional,” “totalitarian,” “miserable,” “negligent,” “immoral,” “a mafia” and “wasteful,” among other epithets.

The no-confidence motion has little hope of securing congressional approval, as Vox holds 52 seats in the 350-strong lower house of parliament and no other party has expressed open support for the initiative. But Vox is viewing the two-day debate as a showcase to forward its ideas about a country “in ruins” and under attack on several fronts.

Despite the headline-grabbing rhetoric, the motion could end up fracturing the political right: the main opposition Popular Party (PP) has been downplaying the importance of Vox’s initiative while internally debating how to react to it.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Party (PSOE) on Wednesday urged PP president Pablo Casado “not to fall into the abyss of the far right” or to let himself be “dragged down by the totalitarian temptation in the hopes of returning to power.” The Socialist leader also asked Casado not to “stand sideways” by abstaining at the vote on Thursday, and urged the PP to vote against.

Sources in the PP leadership later said that “everything that happened in Congress this morning has reinforced the position of rejecting this motion.” The same sources said that the PP’s hand “is still reaching out to negotiate” matters of state with Sánchez if he is willing to accept their conditions. But they would not reveal which way the party will vote on Thursday.

Rise of the far right

After a three-hour address by Vox that was received in concerted silence by the Socialist lawmakers, PM Sánchez took the podium and told Congress that Abascal is using the no-confidence debate as a tool “to channel his anger and spread his hate.” The prime minister spent much of his turn at the podium alerting against the rise of the far right in Spain, where Vox became the third-largest force in parliament at the November 2019 election, attracting 3.6 million votes in a country of 47 million.

“You hate Spain the way it is. What you call patriotism is exasperated nationalism. You have no use for half of your fellow Spaniards,” said Sánchez addressing Abascal. Turning to conservative voters, Sánchez pleaded with them “not to abandon ideas and arguments and constructive debate, not to cross the line or play with fire.” He also warned PP leader Casado that “you are not the beneficiary of this no-confidence motion, but rather its target.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers of different political persuasions – including the liberal Ciudadanos (Citizens) and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), a separatist group – described the entire debate as “a waste of time.”

Ransacking of Spain

On Wednesday, Vox painted a picture of a country being ransacked from the outside by “Brussels’ despotic machinery,” by banks and large corporations, and by pressure groups that include the financier George Soros, all of whom are “doing business with Spain’s ruin.” The country, they said, is also being destroyed from the inside by “separatists who are as much failures as they are traitors,” alluding to the Catalan pro-independence movement. Abascal suggested that he if were in power, he would propose outlawing separatist parties.

Abascal and Garriga also accused the governing coalition of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and Unidas Podemos of being the cause of the death of 60,000 Spaniards due to their mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected Spain particularly hard both in health and in economic terms. Borrowing from US President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, the Vox leaders talked repeatedly about “the Chinese virus” and said that the Spanish government must lose power because of its poor handling of the crisis. Abascal pledged that if the motion prospers, his party will call early elections before the year is out.

“This is about halting the process of destruction of Spain. The government of Pedro Sánchez is the worst in 80 years of history,” said Abascal in a reiteration of a controversial statement he made in early September. This period of time includes the Francisco Franco regime, which lasted from the end of the Civil War (1936-1939) to the dictator’s death in 1975.

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