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Spain: Conservative prime minister Mariano Rajoy voted back to power, ending crisis

One hundred and seventy lawmakers voted for Rajoy, 111 against, and 68 abstained -- all Socialist MPs. In photo: Mariano Rajoy (C) after being re-elected on October 29, 2016. Photograph: (AFP)

Madrid, Spain Oct 29, 2016, 10.23 PM (IST)

Spain’s parliament  on Saturday voted conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy back to power ending a 10-month long political crisis despite opposition and divisions.

A total of 170 lawmakers voted for Rajoy, 111 voted against and 66 abstained.

Rajoy pledged to carry on with the economic policies which are  deeply unpopular with the opposition blames austerity measures taken in his first term for rising inequality.

"Do not expect me to... damage economic recovery and job creation," the 61-year-old told lawmakers during a  pre-vote session, referring to Spain's return to growth in his tenure following an economic downturn, AFP reported.

"There is no sense in getting rid of all reforms."

The socialists’ decision to abstain from voting drew flak from its rivals including the far-left
Podemos, and divided the party so seriously that Socialist chief Pedro Sanchez was ousted earlier this month.

Hours before the vote, Sanchez gave a tearful statement to the media, announcing he was quitting as a lawmaker so he would not have to abstain and allow Rajoy to govern.

Hundreds of protesters gathered near parliament amid a heavy police deployment, unhappy about corruption and sweeping spending cuts during Rajoy's first term, shouting: "They don't represent us."

"It's going to be the same government, or similar, (as in) the past four years, which was disastrous for Spain," said Carmen Lopez, a 65-year-old retired computer technician told AFP.

Rajoy's party will only have 137 out of 350 seats in the parliament and will face huge opposition, forcing him to negotiate every bill.

He originally came to power in 2011 with an absolute majority.

"You are in the clear minority and under tight surveillance of this lower house. The Socialist party will devote itself to monitoring your every step," Antonio Hernando, the Socialists' parliamentary spokesman, told Rajoy, AFP reported.

Among Rajoy's priorities will be the 2017 budget, which may need at least $5.5 billion  in spending cuts to reduce the deficit in the face of EU pressure.

However,  further cuts are likely to face stiff opposition both in parliament and on the street.

He will also face rising separatist sentiment in the northeastern Catalonia region.

"If we all make an effort, we can reach agreements and we have to try and turn this difficult and complex situation into an opportunity," he told reporters.

Political analyst Pablo Simon told AFP that term in office would be the most "turbulent" ever in Spain and could prompt Rajoy to call early elections if he faces gridlock in parliament.


(WION with inputs from AFP)

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