3

On May 31 and June 1, there will be a no-confidence vote on the Spanish Parliament against the current prime minister Mariano Rajoy. It was registered by PSOE, currently the biggest party in the opposition.

Some newspapers mention things like La posibilidad de que Rajoy dimita sobrevuela las horas previas a la moción de censura in Spanish, that is, The possibility that Rajoy resigns flies over the hours prior to the motion of censure.

We learnt some days ago that once a no-confidence vote has been registered in the parliament, the government cannot call for elections. However, I wonder: can the primer minister resign during the no-confidence vote? If so, what are the steps after that? Would the no-confidence vote continue and the alternative candidate by PSOE be able to become the prime minister?

2

There is no clear explicit rule.

Neither the Constitution nor the Reglament of Congress says anything about limiting the resignation of the Prime Minister, either in the case of a motion of no-confidence or otherwise. Since Art. 113 of the Constitution makes a point of explicitly forbidding the calling of new elections but say nothing about the possibility of dimission, I would understand it as not forbidding it.

Furthermore, in all of the mentions to the possibility of the PM resigning it is treated exactly as if it would be treated the possibility of the PM's death. Since death cannot be forbidden by lawcitation needed, it is reasonable to expect that a dimission would be treated the same way. The PM and his government would continue in functions.

That said, after the government has resigned, there is little sense in following with the motion of no-confidence:

  • As the name implies, it is against a government that no longer is. A part of the parliamentary procedure is attacking the current government policies (by the candidate) and the government defending itself. Does not make much sense.

  • The motion of no-confidence might lose support after the resignation. The ruling party might propose a candidate that is more acceptable than the candidate of the motion of no-confidence to some of the supporters. Supporting a candidate of other party may be more unpopular among the electorate if it is not against an unpopular PM1. Some parties may prefer the motion of no-confidence to fail so that no new candidate is elected and new elections are called for.

  • The motion of no-confidence is more difficult to pass than a normal election. A motion of no-confidence needs a majority (more than half of "yes" votes). The election of a new PM by the standard procedure after the resignation of the PM needs only a plurality (more "yes" than "no" votes) in the second round to succeed.

  • If the motion of no-confidence is recalled, it can be called again by the same people in the same legislature. If it is voted and fails, the people that pushed for it are not allowed to call for a new one until the next elections.

So, even if the motion was allowed to continue2, it is in the best interest to voluntarily retire it.

All of which kind of introduces a possible loophole to the prohibition of calling new elections: the PM resigns, the motion of no-confidence is dismissed, the different parties cannot agree in a new candidate3 and new elections happen. But new elections is the last thing that the current PM and his party want, they want to delay elections as much as possible to hope that the damage of the corruption fades away from memory, so I doubt very much that there will be any dimission.


1 Supporting other party's candidate almost always is unpopular (why vote for X if he ends supporting Y) with part of your electorate.

2 Which I would doubt based in the first of the above points.

3 Coincidentally, this is kind of M. Rajoy's greatest political ability.

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  • I'm sure I remember reading about locations which have banned death (In a legal fiction, the paperwork will say you died elsewhere kind of way) but I can't find anything concrete right now. – origimbo May 30 '18 at 13:47
  • My bet: Mr. Rajoy will not resign. Either because he hopes to win, or because losing this motion of no-confidence is only the second worst option. The worst is the (already announced) motion with the objective of immediate new elections; that is almost guaranteed to win and the PP just cannot afford elections right now (I doubt it will be able to afford them in a year from now, but they say hope is the last thing you lose). – SJuan76 May 30 '18 at 14:04
  • And nationalist parties do not want elections either because of the risk of Ciudadanos becoming the most voted party, and they also do not want to support the PP only to go immediately after to new elections and having to explain their support. So I think the motion will pass. – SJuan76 May 30 '18 at 14:04
  • "Since death cannot be forbidden by law [citation needed]..." As with all things human there is always someone to prove you wrong no matter how strange the concept might be (check this article). There are both historical and contemporary examples for Prohibition of Death. But this is just a funny fact. Very informative answer (+1). – armatita May 31 '18 at 11:19
5

If the Prime Minister (aka the President of the Government) resigns then the government must also resign (section 101 of the constitution).

Following either resignation or a no-confidence vote, the King could then appoint a new President of the Government acting on the advice of the leaders of the parliamentary parties. If the People's Party (the party of the current incumbent) felt that they could get through a confidence motion under a new leader, they could nominate one, in accordance with their own processes. Similarly, the Socialist party could also try to build a coalition that could pass a confidence motion. (section 99)

In either case, the actual vote would be delayed until a new prospective government was in place, as you can't vote to have no-confidence in a government that has resigned. The incoming administration, of whatever party, would have to seek the confidence of the House by facing a vote of investiture. However it would not have to call a new general election.

During this period of coalition formation, the previous administration remains as a acting government (section 101, para 2)

If, after 2 months no party has managed to build a coalition that can pass a confidence motion, the King dissolves parliament and new elections are held. (section 99 para 5)

It may be considered proper for a Prime Minister to defend a no-confidence vote rather than resigning, but the effect of losing a no-confidence motion and resigning are the same, and there is no constitutional bar. The government cannot force new elections, as if the government resigns, The opposition can always attempt to form a new government.

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  • But then, the president appointed by the King would need to go through all the voting to be elected, right? Is this the confidence motion you refer to? And in the meanwhlie, who would be the president? – fedorqui May 30 '18 at 13:14
  • the president would need to pass a motion of confidence, not a general election. Meanwhile the existing government would remain as a lame-duck administration. – James K May 30 '18 at 13:44
  • @SJuan76 agreed. I guess the candidate proposed by the King should go through an investidura (investiture?). – fedorqui May 30 '18 at 14:17
  • That's right, I'm using the English translation of the constituion which uses the phrase "seek the confidence of the House" – James K May 30 '18 at 14:42

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