No-confidence motion seen as shot in the foot for Spain's right

Economist Ramon Tamames delivers a speech as leader of Spain's far-right party Vox Santiago Abascal and Vox's spokesperson in parliament Ivan Espinosa de los Monteros, talk during a no confidence motion against the government at the parliament in Madrid, Spain, March 21, 2023. REUTERS/Susana Vera

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's parliament started debating on Tuesday a no confidence motion in the leftist government submitted by the far-right Vox party, a move widely expected to fail and potentially hurt the party's popularity ahead of December elections.

Political analysts said Vox was aware it lacked support to oust the government in Wednesday's vote and yet went ahead, giving Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez the stage to rip into the opposition and highlight his government's achievements.

"The PM has shown intelligence in taking it upon himself to defend his administration against the motion, with good results," said political scientist Jose Luis Barreiro Rivas of the University of Santiago.

The motion was "not doing anyone in the opposition any good," he added.

A Vox source said the no-confidence challenge had caused a deep rift in the party, the third-largest in parliament after Sanchez's PSOE and the conservative People's Party (PP).

The conservatives voted against the previous no-confidence vote in 2020, but this time have said they will abstain, drawing

scorn from Sanchez, who accused the party of essentially siding with the far right.

Several recent polls projected Vox would get fewer seats than the 52 it won in the 350-seat parliament in the 2019 election.

Vox's candidate for prime minister, 89-year-old Ramon Tamames, stirred controversy during the debate with his criticism of the government's policy that led to actions such as the removal of Francisco Franco's remains from a mausoleum where the dictator was buried in 1975.

In response, Sanchez said Vox was using Tamames, former Communist and an anti-dictatorship activist, as "a decoy for its intolerable and unpresentable project".

"You are whitewashing a party that denies gender equality, that denies climate change ... I don't think that's the best idea you had in your life," Sanchez said.

(Reporting by Belén Carreño, writing by Andrei Khalip, editing by David Latona and Tomasz Janowski)

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