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Spanish MPs vote down far-right Vox party's no-confidence motion in PM Sanchez

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Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez adjusts his face mask at a parliamentary session ahead of a no-confidence vote. Madrid, Spain. October 21, 2020.
Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez adjusts his face mask at a parliamentary session ahead of a no-confidence vote. Madrid, Spain. October 21, 2020.   -   Copyright  Manu Fernandez/AP
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Spanish lawmakers on Thursday overwhelmingly rejected a no-confidence motion brought against Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and his government by the far-right Vox party.

The motion was rejected by 298 votes and backed only by the 52 lawmakers of Vox, which last year became the third-largest force in the 350-seat parliament.

The right-wing party argued that Sanchez's administration must go, accusing authorities of handling the coronavirus pandemic poorly as well as labelling it a "fraud" for relying on independent parties.

The third reason it gave was the government's alleged "corruption linked to narco-dictatorships and totalitarian regimes".

Opposition leader Pablo Casado from the conservative Popular Party (PP) said on Thursday that its 88 members would vote against Vox's motion, meaning it didn't stand a chance.

He lambasted the far-right party for "wasting everybody's time". PP secretary-general Teodoro García Egea had said on Wednesday: "With victims, outbreaks and infections, the truth is that this no-confidence motion is a waste of time."

The issue of whether the PP would support the motion was the main question in the run-up for Thursday's vote.

While the party has been vocally critical of Sanchez's minority government, the rise of Vox has come at the expense of Spain's traditional right-wing force.

Some saw the vote as a way of the far-right party forcing the hand of the PP to publicly show its hand on key issues that concern Spain's right-wing electorate – a move that could serve to weaken the Socialist-led coalition.

Vox leader Santiago Abascal said Casado's position showed his party's true colours.

The vote followed a debate that kicked off on Wednesday, during which parliament heard arguments for and against the motion.

In the session, Vox had unlimited time to explain its reasons for wanting its rival out, while the government also had as long as it needed to present its defence.

AP Photo/Manu Fernandez, Pool
Vox party leader Santiago Abascal gives a speech at a parliamentary session ahead of a no-confidence vote. Madrid, Spain. October 21, 2020.AP Photo/Manu Fernandez, Pool

The remaining parties in parliament then had half an hour each to comment.

If the no-confidence vote had succeeded, it would have seen the current left-wing coalition government replaced by one with Abascal at the helm.

“Sánchez’s government is the worst in the world that has faced the coronavirus,” Abascal told the parliament’s lower house, adding he thought the administration is the “worst in 80 years of (Spanish) history”.

Vox has made little effort to hide the fact that the motion presented the chance to speak in parliament before the media, without no time limit, which was a unique opportunity.

Spain became the first country in western Europe to reach 1 million reported infections of the coronavirus on Wednesday.

The country has confirmed more than 34,000 deaths from COVID-19, but experts say the true death toll has likely been impossible to record because of a shortage of tests in the first weeks of the health crisis.