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Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy faces defeat in no-confidence vote

Pierre-Philippe Macrou, AFP | Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy arrives for a debate on a no-confidence motion at parliament in Madrid on June 01, 2018

Spain’s centre-right Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was set to be voted out of office on Friday and replaced by a Socialist, in a no-confidence motion triggered by a long-running corruption trial involving members of his party.

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In a brief farewell speech ahead of the vote, Rajoy congratulated Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez, who is poised to assume the position of prime minister.

"The no-confidence motion is likely to go through, which means Mr. Pedro Sanchez will be the new prime minister," he told parliament. "It has been a honor to leave Spain better than I found it. Thank you to all Spaniards and good luck."

FRANCE 24’s Spain correspondent Sarah Morris said that Sanchez had secured the majority needed to take over from Rajoy as premier.

“Unless there are any surprises the count for the vote will come in at 180 MPs in a 350-seat parliament,” she said.

"That will take Pedro Sanchez’s nomination, to become the next prime minister, above the magic number of 176, which is the absolute majority,” said Morris.

Rajoy’s position has become increasingly untenable, undermined by his status as head of a corruption-tinged minority government as well as a divisive independence drive in the wealthy region of Catalonia.

The Basque Nationalist Party, whose five seats were key to Sanchez securing enough parliamentary backing, withdrew support from Rajoy after dozens of people linked to his centre-right People’s Party (PP) were sentenced to decades in jail in a corruption trial.

Two Catalan pro-independence parties as well as leftist Podemos also said they would back Sanchez. Market-friendly Ciudadanos, leading in the national opinion polls, was the only major party that said it would support Rajoy.

Sanchez said on Thursday he would stick to the budget put forward by Rajoy and approved by parliament last month if voted into power. He has promised to start talks with the Catalans but said he will not give them an independence referendum.

After the vote, Sanchez is expected to be sworn in during the weekend and his cabinet appointed next week. However, with only 84 seats in the 350-seat parliament, his government will struggle to pass legislation.

A general election is due by mid-2020 and it is not clear whether Sanchez could call a snap vote before that. Many observers said he would likely wait until European, local and regional elections which will take place in May next year.

The parliamentary debate resumed at 9 a.m. (0700 GMT) and the vote of confidence is expected at around 12 midday (1000 GMT).

( FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP and AP)

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