The opening sessions held in the Spanish Parliament today and yesterday designed to elect the new President of Spain were, to the relief of many, a much more civilised affair than the same sessions held four years ago. The Popular Party, leadership has recognised the need to distance itself from its hardline image in order to attract votes from center voters and this was reflected in the more measured tone adopted by its leader yesterday. While both party leaders did not miss the chance to criticise eachother and get the occasional dig in yesterday, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Mariano Rajoy underlined their intention to cooperate on the major challenges facing Spain. However the leader of the Popular Party also confirmed his party’s intention to vote against Zapatero’s presidency proposal, and Zapatero did not get the absolute majority of parliamentary votes required in the first vote held this morning. He will be voted in the second round on Friday, when a simple majority is sufficient in order to be able to form Government.
In yesterday’s investiture debate Rajoy said that cooperation was an essential condition given that together both parties represent 92% of the Spanish population.
The leader of the PP said that he believed in agreements and pacts which was why he was willing to work with Zapatero. He also said that both parties should aim for ‘consensual, stable decisions’.
In reply to these words José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero emphasised that the biggest pact of state is the constitutional pact. Zapatero also said that one of the successes of the last 30 years of democracy in Spain was that it was ‘inclusive of all identities in our country’. He said that he had the special responsibility of ‘trying to be as inclusive as possible’.
The acting president reminded Rajoy that in 1996 the PP only made a pact with CiU when they needed to reach a majority.
He said the difference between PSOE and the PP was that since 1977 up to the present his party had always favoured consensus.
Zapatero expressed his hopes of being able to reach agreements with the PP over important issues such as regional finance, justice and foreign policy.
However, Mariano Rajoy clearly stated that he would not be supporting Zapatero in the investiture because he said that he did not have his confidence or that of many millions of Spaniards. Rajoy said that Zapatero had a past and that he has seen him govern over four years. Zapatero replied to this by saying that ‘his credentials were those of democracy and of the support of the Spanish population for his policies’.
Zapatero also said that Rajoy had only spoken about the past without giving a single proposal for the future.
To this Rajoy said he was sorry that he could not set out his legislative programme and that he would like to do so because it would mean that he had won but that this wasn’t the case’.
Rajoy said that Spain’s economy was in a very vulnerable position with high inflation, less competitiveness and loss of jobs. He said that the key to a good economy was confidence but that Zapatero’s proposals lacked this and that he was more interested in hiding problems than recognising them.
On the issue of the economy Zapatero reminded Rajoy of his challenges over the economy at the beginning of the last legislature and said that he hadn’t dared to give him more challenges because all the previous ones had been met successfully.
Zapatero, while acknowledging the adverse conditions in the world economy, also said that Spain’s economy was strong enough to get over the present situation and that the economic slowdown was affecting all the members of the EU.
Rajoy demonstrated that he would be prepared to reach agreements with PSOE with regards to anti-terrorist policy. Although he also said that this depended on there being no negotiations with ETA. Zapatero said that he wanted all Spaniards to be aware that his party was willing to forget the past and work with the PP over this issue because his party was more interested in putting an end to ETA than gaining political points.