New Leaders In Spain And Italy

Jun 10, 2018 By Christine H, Guest Writer
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Last week, two major EU countries, Spain and Italy, gained new prime ministers even though no elections were held.   

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was forced out after a parliamentary no-confidence vote. A no-confidence vote is a vote by members of the Parliament that the person in power is no longer fit to hold the position. Rajoy will be replaced by Pedro Sanchez who filed the motion that forced the vote. 

In Italy, two populist parties received approval to form a new government with Giuseppe Conte as Prime Minister almost three months after its elections.

What Happened in Spain?

Mariano Rajoy, as head of the Popular Party (PP), has been Spain’s Prime Minister since 2011. 

The conservative PP has been plagued by corruption scandals for years.  In Spain, it is illegal for politicians to receive payment from any sources other than the state for official government duties and campaign donations are severely restricted.

At a recent hearing involving illegal funding for PP's political campaigns, judges handed down a total of 351 years in prison to 29 politicians and business people. In addition, the judges slapped a fine of 245,000 Euros on the Popular Party for benefitting from the corruption scheme. The day after sentencing, Pedro Sanchez filed his motion for the no-confidence vote, saying that Mariano Rajoy had failed to take responsibility for his party's involvement in the corruption scandal.

Italy Finally Forms A New Government

Italy held its elections almost three months ago but back then, no single party won a sufficient 40% majority to form a new government. See our detailed earlier article here

Since then, two populist parties, Five Star Movement (M5S) and the League, have been negotiating on how to form a coalition government together.

The initial attempt by M5S and the League did not gain approval. Italian President Sergio Mattarella rejected their candidate for economy minister because he is known as someone who does not support the single Euro currency. In fact, he had previously co-authored a guide to leaving the Eurozone. The economy minister oversees economic policy and public spending; Italy is one of the founding members of the European Union, and it is not clear if a majority of Italians want to leave it.

M5S and the League came up with another candidate for the economy minister, Giovanni Tria, who is in favor of Italy continuing to use the Euro. This time, President Mattarella gave his approval, and the new government was sworn in by the end of the week. The new Prime Minister of Italy is Giuseppe Conte.

Sources: BBC, Guardian, NYTimes