Fresh Chaos in Spain as Mariano Rajoy steps down as prime minister

Monday 11th June 2018 | Jake

The heat had been on Mariano Rajoy for a while now. The chaotic scenes in Catalonia last year drew international attention to his reign as Spanish prime minister, with many leading international figures condemning his heavy-handed approach. It was an aggressive, divisive reaction to a constitutionally illegal referendum on independence, with many people in Spain supporting his approach.

Away from the loud, distracting Catalan crisis, however, a series of corruption scandals gradually eroded the base from which Rajoy enjoyed his support in government. The 63-year-old, who had been prime minister for seven years, has made history by becoming the first Spanish prime minister to leave office due to a vote of no confidence.

The financial crisis of 2007 had a profound impact on Spain and successive governments had failed to revive an economy mired in debt. Years characterised by harsh austerity have followed, while public trust in politicians, which wasn’t particularly strong before the crash, nosedived. The electorate, mistrusting of leaders, produced two inconclusive votes in 2016, with Rajoy eventually managing to secure a second term in office by forming a minority government.

His reprisal of the role led to mass demonstrations, with many Spaniards fiercely against his strict policy of spending cuts and the corruption scandals that would eventually prove his downfall. Rajoy’s People’s party (PP) has long been dealing with a corruption scandal known as the Gürtel case, an investigation that revealed PP had run wide reaching kickbacks in return for contracts scheme.

On Thursday 31st of May a motion of no confidence, tabled by lead opposition party PSOE, was passed, resulting in PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez ascending to the prime minister’s office. Sánchez had been deposed by members of his party following Rajoy’s success in forming a minority government, but regained the party leadership last year. He has vowed to tackle the harsh spending cuts Rajoy meted out before arranging a general election.

New Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez

Sánchez will be restricted from making significant change as he is indebted to several parties that supported his motion of no confidence in Rajoy, and will have to juggle their demands with his party’s own. Sánchez has promised to enter dialogue with the separatist Catalan parties, as well as to adhere to Rajoy’s final budget to appease the Basque Nationalist party, whose members in parliament proved pivotal in ousting Rajoy. In politically tumultuous Spain the one constant appears to be change.