MADRID, Oct. 29 (UPI) — Spain’s conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy ended 10 months of political turmoil on Saturday, winning a parliamentary vote authorizing him to create a minority government.
The vote came after members of the opposition socialist party, commonly referred to in Spain as the PSOE, agreed to abstain from the vote, breaking the deadlock and granting Rajoy a second term.
Rajoy’s Popular Party still does not have enough votes to form a majority government, leaving open the question of how long the political ceasefire will last. Though the PSOE abstained from the confidence vote, they have pledged to remain an opposition force in Parliament.
Had the PSOE not stepped aside, Spain was facing a third national election inside of a year. Rajoy’s PP lost its outright majority in December amid the emergence of two new parties and he led a caretaker government after efforts at forming a majority coalition failed. A subsequent election in June did not break the deadlock, but strengthened Rajoy’s hand as the PSOE bled support to the new leftist Podemos party, which now enjoys nearly as many seats in Parliament as the PSOE.
Rajoy could enjoy more stability than leaders of other European parliamentary governments. In Spain, a straight no-confidence vote is not enough to dissolve a government and force new elections. Opposition parties must also agree on a candidate to run against the sitting prime minister, a potentially difficult task for opposition parties spanning the political spectrum from centrists to militant leftists and secessionists from the autonomous region of Catalonia.
In the run-up to the confidence vote, Rajoy pledged to focus on issues that unite Spaniards, rather than focus on political divisions.
“I will focus on the issues that unite us, setting aside those which divide us,” Rajoy said. “It’s obvious that we’re entering an era when it will be necessary to talk and negotiate.”
It is not immediately clear how soon Rajoy will take the oath of office. Spanish King Felipe VI is due back in the country Sunday after attending a summit in South America.
A primary focus for Rajoy will be bolstering the Spanish economic recovery. Spain’s economy, the fourth-largest in Europe, grew at more than 3 percent for the second consecutive year in 2016, nearly double the European average.
Unemployment, however, remains a significant problem, hovering near 19 percent.