This may actually be good for Spanish unity, as Rajoy's abusive policies toward Catalan separatists tended to drive moderates into the arms of the more extreme secessionists:
Mariano Rajoy, once viewed as the great survivor of Spanish politics, has been ousted as prime minister in a vote of no confidence after several former members of his party were convicted of corruption in a case that proved a scandal too far.This is literally the first no-confidence vote in the history of the modern Spanish democracy, so it is a big deal.
He will be replaced by Pedro Sánchez, the leader of Spain’s opposition socialist PSOE party, which tabled the motion to unseat him.
It cements a remarkable comeback for Sánchez, who regained his leadership a year ago after a PSOE coup saw him deposed over his steadfast refusal to let Rajoy back into office following two inconclusive general elections.
The socialist motion won the support of 180 MPs – four more than the 176 needed in the 350-seat parliament. There was one abstention and 169 MPs opposed it.
Sánchez vowed to address the “pressing social needs” of Spaniards after years of austerity under Rajoy’s conservative government, adding that he was “aware of the responsibility and the complex political moment of our country”.
After the vote, Rajoy went over to Sánchez in the chamber and shook the incoming leader’s hand.
“It has been an honour to be the prime minister of Spain,” Rajoy told parliament shortly before the vote. “It has been an honour to leave a better Spain than the one I found. I hope that my successor will be able to say the same when his time comes.”
He said he believed he had done his duty as prime minister, adding: “My thanks to the Spanish people for lending me their support and understanding. And good luck to everyone for the good of Spain.”
Rajoy, who served as premier for seven years, had managed to weather a string of corruption scandals within his People’s party (PP) but was unable to withstand political anger after Spain’s highest criminal court found the party had benefited from an enormous and illegal kickbacks-for-contracts scheme, known as the Gürtel case.
The 63-year-old’s fate was sealed on Thursday afternoon when the Basque Nationalist party (PNV) joined the anti-austerity Podemos party and the two biggest Catalan pro-independence parties in backing the PSOE motion.
Sánchez, 46, has promised to call elections but has said his minority government will spend a few months focusing on social and educational reforms before taking Spain to the polls.
His time in office is unlikely to yield profound changes and he will have to heed the demands of the parties who backed his motion. He successfully wooed the PNV by promising to stick to Rajoy’s recently approved budget, which includes increased investment in the Basque country.
The PSOE leader also held out his hand to the Catalan independence parties, saying he was willing to engage in dialogue over the long-running territorial and political crisis.
I rather do hope that this is the end of Rajoy's political career.