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Spain's conservative leader faces no-confidence vote

Spain's conservative leader faces no-confidence vote

The motion passed by four votes in the Spanish parliament on Friday, amid a corruption scandal that has plagued Rajoy's People's Party.

The 46-year-old Mr Sanchez is Spain's seventh prime minister since the return to democracy following the death of dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975.

The Spanish parliament's lower house is debating whether to end Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's almost eight years in power and replace him with the leader of the Socialist opposition.

"Today, finally, we are sending the Popular Party home", said Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias, who called for Sanchez to implement an ambitious social agenda and to undo years of austerity measures by the conservatives.

Mr Rajoy made brief farewell remarks to MPs before the vote, telling them: "It has been a honour to leave Spain better than I found it".

By moving into La Moncloa palace, the seat of government in Madrid, Mr Sanchez will recover the spotlight that he had been sorely missing since leaving parliament.

He shook hands with Sanchez, who was then embraced by his Socialist deputies beaming with delight at a political coup that looked impossible just a few days previously.

Sanchez, however, insisted that any solutions for Catalonia must fit within Spain's Constitution, which calls the nation "indivisible" and says national sovereignty resides in the Madrid-based parliament.

In order to be approved, the motion of no-confidence presented by Sanchez needed to exceed the absolute majority of the lower house (176 seats).

The support of leftist and nationalist parties for ousting Rajoy won't necessarily lead to parliamentary backing for Sanchez's government and could produce a political stalemate.

Referring to Mariano Rajoy's outgoing government, Rivera told reporters on Friday that "we had to censure this government, but not in this way".

The key is in the hands of the Basque Nationalist Party, or PNV, which chose to back Sanchez with its five lawmakers in the national parliament after the Socialist leader vowed to keep the hefty benefits that the Basques obtained in the recent negotiations of the 2018 national budget.

Rajoy's departure would trigger a second political crisis in southern Europe, further unnerving financial markets already wrongfooted by failed attempts to form a government in Italy three months after a national election.

Once he negotiated the support of several smaller parties, including Basque and Catalan nationalist groups, he had momentum for the no-confidence vote. Dozens of people tied to his party have been sentenced to years in prison.

Mariano Rajoy waves during a lunch break in a motion of no confidence debate at Parliament in Madrid, Spain, May 31, 2018.

Also, the centre-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) party - which has been leading recent opinion polls - is demanding a snap election and is vowing fierce opposition to Sanchez.

"He has sent (Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez) a congratulatory letter stating his confidence in the Spanish government to continue to contribute in a constructive manner to a stronger, more united and fairer European Union", a spokeswoman for the Commision said.

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