Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in the Congress of Deputies (photo archive). (Efe)
Ángel Collado 07/19/2012 (06:00 AM CET)
The Spanish parliament voted on Thursday on the new round of austerity measures presented by the government last week. The governing centre-right Popular party relied on its absolute majority and one vote from the only deputy representing the small party UPN to pass the bill.
All the other parties voted against the new measures, which include, for instance, the major tax increase in decades, reduced benefits to public sector employees and reduced unemployment benefits.
There have spontaneous street protests in Madrid daily since the reforms were announced by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy last Wednesday. The major trade unions have called for a demonstration in the evening on Thursday in 80 Spanish cities. Police protection was reinforced around the Congress building on Thursday.
PP almost without support
The vote on Thursday showed that the governing party almost stands alone. Apart from one vote from UPN, all the other opposition parties voted against the measures, including the Catalan centre-right nationalist federation Convergence and Union (CiU), which has backed PP on other occasions.
Artur Mas, leader of CiU and premier of Catalonia, has strongly opposed the government’s deficit targets for the autonomous regions and on Wednesday he called on other regions to object to the government’s policies. Catalonia was one among four regions that voted against the decreased deficit targets for the regions of 0.7 percent in 2013 and 0.2 percent in 2014.
When PP took over power following the general elections in November, it was backed by the Catalan party who, for instance, voted in favor of the labor reform. But with the government’s measures to raise taxes and reduce the regions’ deficit targets, CiU has withdrawn its support, and PP has been left almost alone against the opposition block consisting of the Socialist party, the United Left party group, the Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) and the regional parties. A minority, left-wing party group decided not to vote and left the parliament in protest against the new law.
"Necessary and indispensible," Rajoy says
The lack of support for these measures was expected. Rajoy, however, has insisted that the measures are “necessary and absolutely indispensible” in order to reduce the high deficit to comply with the deficit targets agreed with the European Union, as well as to follow other EU’s recommendations for the Spanish economy.
The Socialist party, which is the major opposition party, has strongly opposed the increase of value-added taxes, the budget cuts that will affect public sector employees and the reduced unemployment benefits.
This article was translated and edited by Stina Lunden.
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