Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez survived a non-confidence motion led by far-right party Vox
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez survived a non-confidence motion led by far-right party Vox AFP

Spanish lawmakers on Wednesday roundly rejected a no-confidence motion against socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez brought by the far-right Vox party and fronted by an 89-year-old former communist.

After nearly 14 hours of parliamentary debate which began early Tuesday, the motion was rejected with 201 votes against, to 53 in favour and 91 abstentions in the 350-seat chamber.

It never had a chance of success given it was only supported by Vox's 52 MPs, although it secured one extra vote from an independent lawmaker.

As pledged, the right-wing opposition Popular Party (PP) abstained.

The no-confidence move -- which was defended by elderly economist, Ramon Tamames, who does not belong to Vox -- comes two months before local and regional polls in Spain on May 28 and ahead of a December general election.

"We will not vote in favour of this motion out of respect for the Spanish people, and we will not vote against this motion out of respect for you, Mr. Tamames," the PP's number two, Cuca Gamarra, told lawmakers ahead of the vote.

An earlier Vox-led no-confidence motion in October 2020 also failed but the PP had voted against, with Wednesday's decision to abstain drawing fierce criticism from Sanchez.

"It is remarkable and revealing to see the traditional right... getting closer and closer to the far-right," he said, accusing opposition leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo, who is not a lawmaker and did not attend the vote, of seeking to appease Vox ahead of the elections.

"What does the absent leader of the traditional right say today in the face of history repeating itself? He is silent. But his silence says it all: they know they need Vox to be able to govern," Sanchez said.

Vox became Spain's third-largest party when it entered parliament in 2019, and last year won its first share of power in one of Spain's regional governments alongside the PP.

It is a model the party is hoping to repeat with polls suggesting the PP would win December's election but would need Vox's support to govern.

However, Vox's ultra-conservative stance, notably over abortion in recent months, has embarrassed the PP which has sought to distance itself from the faction.

Despite the motion's rejection, Vox leader Santiago Abascal said he was "satisfied".

"Once again, we have exposed one of the worst governments in our history," he told reporters.

"We knew what the outcome (of the vote) would be but above all we were satisfied with the debate, we wanted this government to be exposed and it was."