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Speech by Acting President of the Government in Lower House of Parliament during third day of investiture process for the 14th Legislature as candidate to the Presidency of the Government

Lower House of Parliament, Madrid, Tuesday 7 January 2020

PEDRO SÁNCHEZ, Acting President of the Government

Madam Speaker,

Honourable Members of Parliament,

Good day,

Over the last four years, Spain has lacked a government with full powers for a total of a year and a half.

A country without a government with full powers is a country that lacks the tools to address its problems and to face up to future challenges.

Hence, it is unacceptable for this situation to be repeated. Accordingly, once this investiture is over, I believe it would be the right time to look for mechanisms to avoid a repeat of the deadlock of recent months. That is why I declare my commitment and that of the Socialist Parliamentary Group to look for ways, together with other groups, to facilitate the formation of government majorities in the future instead of deadlock majorities.

Without a parliament, you cannot have a democratic government, but without a government-elect, a parliament cannot function indefinitely. And without a government-elect and without a parliament, it is clear that our democratic system seriously suffers.

In short, it is unacceptable for this situation to happen again in the future, but even more unacceptable for this situation to go on a day longer in our country. The Spanish people have upheld their obligation by voting, not just once but five times in a year, and it is our primary duty to give them what they have voted for - a government. More specifically, to give them a government in line with their will.

On Friday, I explained what the result could be on Saturday. I textually stated that, "Upon the conclusion of these investiture sessions there will be a vote, which will reflect three different positions:

- On one side, the profile of a Spain that wants to make progress, that wants to overcome its differences - as different parliamentary groups have done over the course of recent weeks - and secondly to move towards the formation of a coalition of progress, dialogue and social justice.

- In the middle, those who don't wish to sign up for this progress, but that at least by abstaining don't prevent it.

- And on the other side, a strange and motley coalition ranging from the far right to anti-system parties; together with the most inflexible nationalist parties from one extreme and the other. This is the pro-blockade Spain, without alternatives, solutions, horizons or responses, wholly negative and pro-deadlock."

And that is what happened on Saturday. And that is why I appear here again today, in accordance with our Constitution to ask for the confidence of the majority of the House on behalf of the Socialist Party - which won the elections and is the largest political force in this Lower House - and on behalf of the progressive coalition that I propose to this House. By itself, this coalition, unprecedented in the democratic history of our country, represents an attempt to join forces. In total, it represents 155 seats and can also obtain sufficient support to become the only option for a potential government.

And it is important to underline this, to stress this, Honourable Members; it is the only option for a potential government after five different elections; including two general elections over the last year alone

(Applause)

Nor do I understand why the right wing benches are acting like this because it was clear on Thursday and even more so today after listening to the different parliamentary groups. There is no other option for the formation of a government.

And this is also the option that won the most recent elections held on 10 November and also in the other four other election processes held over the course of 2019.

Five election processes with the same result - that is not a coincidence, Honourable Members. It is called democracy and it is the expression of the will of the people. And the first principle of a democracy is to accept the results of the ballot box, to accept the composition of Parliament. No force other than the Socialist Party can give us a government in Spain.

Furthermore, Honourable Members, there is a high number of MPs that deserve our respect, even though they have insulted us over these days of the investiture. But, Honourable Members, that high number of MPs, which is such a motley crew, only have one thing in common, which they share, and that is the deadlock they impose. Hence, the quandary we face here today with this vote, Honourable Members, is the following: either a progressive coalition or a prolonged deadlock for Spain; I hope that the parliamentary majority of this House opts for the progressive coalition.

Madam Speaker, Honourable Members,

I keenly understand the annoyance of the conservative forces. I understand their frustration. They have tried everything. They have stood in five elections and failed each time. They have tried again in this House and will not win that either. If a majority backs the investiture, their blockade will be breached and hence they will have failed again.

By the way, Honourable Members, their arguments have changed over the course of time in justifying their blockade, although the true reason has always been the same. They say that the abstention of Esquerra Republicana [Republican Left of Catalonia] is unacceptable. Previously they said that a government that included Unidas Podemos was unacceptable. But neither did they accept a Socialist Party government by itself when they could have allowed that by abstaining.

They have changed their tune over time, Honourable Members, under the pretext of gaining time.

The Lower House of Parliament and the Constitution do not belong to them; they belong to all of us here today. They should all respect the rights of the speaker to address us and have a little democratic order, Honourable Members, this House is not theirs alone.

They have changed their tune over time, Honourable Members, under the pretext of gaining time, but the reason is always the same; either the right wing governs or there can be no government in Spain.

They have forced the issue time and again waiting to see if a new opportunity emerged from somewhere.

But that time is over; they have not achieved this; it has not worked. A progressive coalition will govern in Spain because that is what the Spanish people have decided on and because that is what the parliamentary majority of this House will decide.

So, I understand the annoyance of the conservative forces and I also understand their frustration. But I would ask them to accept the reality. They have lost the elections and they will lose the vote here today.

And having reached this point, they can do one of two things - either continue indefinitely to sulk or accept the result. I recommend the latter. Accepting the democratic result offered by this House.

It will do no good to continue sulking indefinitely. To start with, this is harmful for something that is very important for this country, which is called living together; and secondly, it is not good for their own voters either whom this exasperation, which serves no fundamental purpose, will be passed on to. And finally, it is not even good for them because you can't build anything positive out of this bitterness and frustration.

It would be preferable for them to accept the electoral result. There will be a progressive coalition because that is what the Spanish people and the parliamentary majority of the Lower House of Parliament have decided.

It is true, Honourable Members, that the minimum wage will be raised to more decent levels and that resources will be freed up to help families at risk of poverty. It is also true that some of the wealthiest Spaniards will have to pay a little more tax to the general well-being. But I can tell you something else, Honourable Members, which is that this will only affect one in every 200 taxpayers in our country and there is no reason to believe that all those affected shrink from contributing in a supportive fashion to the public coffers, and this will go hand-in-hand with a reduction in the tax burden on SMEs.

It is true that we will protect workers' rights; we will void abuse and alleviate the job insecurity suffered by many of our workers in Spain. But that does not prejudice anyone, particularly not the vast majority of business owners who base the productivity of their companies on innovation, on training and on motivating their employees, which is precisely what we will be fostering.

It is true that we will try and restore social rights in education, in healthcare, in long-term care, in pensions and continue to strengthen our cause to enhance real and effective equality between men and women, which have been stripped away during many years of a PP government. And we will even try to extend these rights to early education and to grants, and to new benefits such as oral health within the national health system.

And also the right to housing. This should not make anyone uncomfortable, not even the conservative voters they represent, given that they also have children who study, get sick, need a roof over their heads and get older. And all Spaniards may benefit from these new rights because they are universal rights for everyone.

It is true that all Spaniards will see their freedom of expression, to associate and to live their lives according to their value and beliefs broadened, without gag acts, without making political parties illegal or closing down media outlets as some political forces in our country propose.

Just look, Honourable Members, we have had a democracy for 40 years, and in the past such rights were won as divorce, abortion and gay marriage, but no-one was forced to exercise them; they simply offered more liberty and well-being to those who opted to exercise these rights.

It is true that we should all adapt our forms of production, of consumption, of transport and our ways of life to combat the climate emergency. And we should take on other habits that make it possible to protect our air, our water, our forests, our biodiversity, in short. And we will do this while guaranteeing a just transition to a new energy model in which no-one is prejudiced.

And everyone, regardless of ideology, will benefit from purer air, cleaner water and a more sustainable planet.

It is true that our compatriots who live in vast areas at risk of depopulation will receive more attention. But this step does not distinguish between one ideology and another and will benefit everyone equally. It is also true that we will live through a new time of dialogue, which is necessary in our country to overcome territorial disputes. But we will always do this within the limits of the Constitution and whilst guaranteeing the integrity of differences based on respect and working for the common good.

As well as these changes, we will push through others in science, in research, in culture, in infrastructures, in the digital revolution, in the primary sector, in terms of job creation. And if I regret anything about this investiture debate, Honourable Members, it is that the conservative opposition has not looked closely at the proposals we have made in these and in many other areas. I feel that these and other issues that affect and are of interest to millions of Spanish people have been prejudiced in this debate as a result of their heated exchanges and zeal last week.

At any event, I am hopeful that it will be possible to dispel this toxic climate, I truly believe that and feel it is necessary, that we don't want and will not contribute to in any way. We will strive to create a constructive climate that contributes to overcoming differences rather than to fuelling them.

I trust that once this parliamentary procedure is concluded which is essential for forming a government and ensuring the full functioning of our democracy it will be possible to overcome this atmosphere of controversy and dispute that they have brought to this House and that we can recover a forum for understanding, for consensus and for forging the pacts that our country needs and our people demand.

Allow me to express this in the words of an honourable compatriot who all of us who aspire to democratic coexistence can empathise with. The President of the Spanish Republic, Manuel Azaña, said, "What was hidden will once again be seen - that we are all the children of the same sun and tributaries of the same river". Because, Honourable Members, and also in the words of Manuel Azaña, "no-one has a right to monopolise patriotism".

I will end now, Honourable Members. In my speech on Friday, I said the following:

"All I humbly ask is that you think of the people watching us from their homes.

Come up to this podium and lay out an alternative to the programme I have outlined. Defend it with the passion and conviction dictated by your conscience. And vote according to your criteria.

But I would ask you not to contribute through words to a breakdown in coexistence. Let us not contribute from this podium to further division in the streets, more family discord or disputes in companies.

That, Honourable Members, also constitutes patriotism".

Thank you very much

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation