In Congress on Wednesday.

06-05-2020J. J. Guillén

The Spanish government has succeeded in gaining the approval of Congress for a further extension of the state of alarm until 24 May.

The Partido Popular, who had announced that they would not be supporting an extension, opted to abstain. Leading the vote against the extension were Vox and the Esquerra Republicana Catalunya, the ERC having previously given their backing to extensions.

Prime Minister Sánchez had to thank Ciudadanos and a number of small parties for obtaining the approval. The leader of the Cs, Inés Arrimadas, said that her party would vote in favour, as an extension would be "good" for the Spanish people. However, there were conditions. Sánchez agreed to, for example, negotiating financial aid for the self-employed once the state of alarm is over. In defending the need for the extension, Sánchez had in fact argued that it would be "unforgivable" if aid for different groups were to be "revoked".

The prime minister gave assurances regarding a greater role to be played by regional administrations, which was an acknowledgement of a condition raised by the PNV Basque Nationalist Party for giving its support to the extension. The de-escalation will be through a process of "co-governance" with the regions; "consensual" measures will be adopted.

Sánchez asked for "a few more weeks" of the state of alarm but without being specific. Implying that he will be seeking an extension beyond 24 May, he was made fully aware that he will face tougher opposition in securing this.

Pablo Casado of the PP observed that the situation cannot be maintained indefinitely and accused the prime minister of wanting "absolute" political powers. The exceptional situation, Casado observed, "does not allow for a constitutional dictatorship". On this occasion the PP would abstain, but if there are requests for more extensions, they will vote against. Casado added that he was "convinced" that "many parties" will do the same.

Santiago Abascal of Vox stated that the prime minister was "trying to blackmail this chamber" into renewing a power that he had abused.

Gabriel Rufián of the ERC, in announcing his party's intention to vote against, gave the prime minister a reminder of the situation that exists in Congress. Without dialogue with the ERC (and their support), the minority coalition of PSOE and Unidas Podemos will find government very difficult. The prime minister and the government should therefore "pay attention" to his republican party, as "nothing comes free in politics".

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