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Cablegate: New Socialist Majority Appears Stable

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS MADRID 001072

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SP PSOE
SUBJECT: NEW SOCIALIST MAJORITY APPEARS STABLE

REF: MADRID 900

1. (SBU) Summary. The margin of the Socialist (PSOE) victory
on March 14 should allow them to take power without any
formal coalition agreements with smaller parties. While the
PSOE's 164 seats fall 12 short of an absolute majority, it
should allow them to govern stably, especially given the fact
that the Popular Party (PP) has no realistic alternative
coalition to challenge the PSOE. The Socialists have stated
that they will form coalitions as needed on an issue-by-issue
basis, freeing them from being dependent on leftist or
nationalist coalition partners. While the Spanish system has
no set date for the investiture of the new government,
expectations are that the process will move quickly and that
the Zapatero administration will be installed by mid to late
April. End Summary.

-----------------------------
Stable PSOE Majority
-----------------------------

2. (SBU) Though not the 176 votes necessary for an absolute
majority in Congress, the PSOE majority is large enough to
govern comfortably by historic standards. Both major parties
won with less than absolute majorities in the 1990's (the
PSOE in 1993 with 159 seats and the PP in 1996 with 156
seats), and were able to maintain stable governments. The
164 seats that the PSOE received on March 14 are sufficient
to counter the most likely alternative combination of votes
(the PP's 148 seats with the CiU's (moderate Catalan
nationalists) 10 seats and the Canaries Coalition's 3, for a
total of 161 votes), even without the support of the other
parties. Given that legislation can be passed by a simple
majority, the PSOE position in Congress thus appears secure.
The PSOE can count on the 13 votes of the other leftist
parties (ERC (leftist Catalan nationalists) with eight, IU
(Communists) with five) on most issues to increase the
Socialist's margin. The inability of the PP in opposition to
attract potential coalition partners permits the PSOE to
enter into governance with no formal coalition agreements,
allowing the Socialists to avoid having to make deals on
ministerial positions or controversial issues that could
potentially alienate moderate voters.

3. (SBU) On issues such as the devolution of powers to the
regions, where the Basque and Catalan nationalist parties may
differ from the Socialists, the PP has already pledged its
support to maintain the territorial integrity of Spain, and
would agree with Socialist positions that support this
principle.

4. (SBU) In the other legislative chamber, the PP lost 24
seats in the Senate on March 14 (from 127 to 103). However,
they remain only two seats short of an absolute majority of
105 seats. With the support of the 3 seats of the Canaries
Coalition (CC), the PP should be able to control the Senate.
However, given the weak powers of the Senate, the most the PP
can hope for is to delay and amend legislation, not kill it,
as the Senate can be overridden by the Congress of Deputies.

-----------------------------
Investiture Schedule
-----------------------------

5. (SBU) The first step in the formation of the Zapatero
government occurs on April 2 with the choosing of the
President of the Congress (see reftel). That position will
almost certainly go to the PSOE's former foreign policy
spokesman in Congress, Manuel Marin, who is PSOE leader Jose
Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's choice for the job. While the
process for the election of Zapatero as President of the
Government could take until the beginning of May, it is
widely expected that the process will go rapidly. MFA
contacts have predicted that the Zapatero government should
be in power by April 14-19. Some smaller parties have
already indicated their support for Zapatero's investiture,
without any coalition agreement, which would allow the PSOE
leader to be elected President of the Government on the first
round of voting in the Congress of Deputies with the support
of an absolute majority. Even if he does not receive an
absolute majority on the first round, Zapatero can become
President of the Government on a second round of votes in
Congress by a simple majority.
ARGYROS

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