The Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, managed to secure a further 15-day extension to the state of alarm late on Wednesday. The new measures maintain the government’s emergency powers that aim to control the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. This will take the extension until May 24th.
Initially, the Prime Minister’s request received widespread objections from the opposition. With Sánchez’s party, PSOE, only having a minority government in coalition with Unidos Podemos, it was a hard-fought battle and required last-minute negotiations with the opposition to secure a majority needed for Congress.
The Popular Party initially gave its support, then decided to abstain from the vote. Sánchez then had to make concessions to Basque Nationalist Party and Ciudadanos to ensure the success of the vote.
The Prime Minister explained that; “There are no absolutely correct decisions but lifting the state of alarm now would be an absolute mistake.” It was also stressed that the measures were not to inhibit the freedom of its citizens but to defeat the Coronavirus.
During the Congress of Deputies, the leader of the Popular Party, Casado, was highly critical of the government’s approach. Casado claimed that the virus was no reason to allow for ‘constitutional dictatorship’. He also accused the Prime Minister of lying about the causes of the severe impact the virus has had on Spain. Casado also claimed that Sánchez was ‘manipulating the economic and social consequences.’ Consequently, Casado asked his 88 lawmakers to abstain from the vote.
The leader of Vox, Santiago Abascal, also became critical of the Prime Minister’s handling of the crisis. He suggested that Sánchez may suffer a vote of no confidence in Congress and warned that he might face class-action suits. Abascal claims that Sánchez is “trying to blackmail this chamber into renewing a power that you have abused. Maintaining the state of alarm saves neither lives nor jobs. What would save lives and jobs would be a change of government.”
From the vote, there was 97 abstentions, 75 votes against and 178 votes in favour of the extension.
Sánchez also announced that there would be an official period of mourning for all those who have lost their lives to the Coronavirus outbreak. This period of mourning will be when the majority of the country is in the Phase 1 stage of de-escalation.