Spain’s Congress of Deputies approves fourth extension to state of alarm

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez secured last-minute support from opposition groups to prolong emergency powers to combat the coronavirus crisis

The Congress of Deputies voted on Wednesday to extend the state of alarm in Spain for another 15 days, maintaining the emergency powers this situation gives the government to deal with the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, of the Socialist Party (PSOE), first implemented the state of alarm on March 14. Today’s extension is the fourth that has been authorized by Spain’s lower house of parliament.

Sánchez’s request for an additional period until May 24 was met with growing objections from the opposition, and the prime minister, who heads a minority government in coalition with junior partner Unidas Podemos, was forced into last-minute negotiations to secure the simple majority of more yes than no votes he needed in the 350-strong Congress.

There are no absolutely correct decisions, but lifting the state of alarm now would be an absolute mistake
“We have managed a partial victory against the virus with everyone’s sacrifice,” he told lawmakers at the start of the debate on Wednesday morning. “We are not here by chance. Nobody gets it right all the time in such an unprecedented situation. There are no absolutely correct decisions, but lifting the state of alarm now would be an absolute mistake.”

The government offered concessions to the center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) and to the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) to ensure success even though the main opposition group, the Popular Party (PP), finally decided to withdraw its earlier support and abstain in the vote.

Sánchez, who announced this morning that the country will have an official period of mourning for its Covid-19 victims “when most of the country is in Phase 1 of the deescalation,” sought to underscore his message that the state of alarm is necessary to defeat the coronavirus and that this legal tool is not encroaching on citizens’ freedoms.

“All rights remain intact, not a single liberty has been violated. Just two of them have been limited, freedom of movement and to ensure public health and save lives,” he said. “We need to limit freedom of movement a few weeks more.” Sánchez insisted this is meant to prevent the spread of the virus, not “as a ruse to curtail liberties.”

But his words did not appear to convince PP leader Casado, who announced that because of the government’s most recent concessions, his 88 lawmakers would abstain rather than cast no votes. Casado was highly critical of the government during his speech, telling Sánchez that “the exceptional situation does not allow for a constitutional dictatorship.” The conservative leader accused Sánchez of lying about the causes of the severe impact of the Covid-19 disease in Spain, and of manipulating its economic and social consequences.

“You are trying to craft a tale that’s outside reality in order to arrive at this unsettling new normality that you’re trying to sell us. Don’t bring us another extension in 15 days, because we won’t approve it. We do not support this overstepping of legal boundaries that has turned into a covert state of exception,” said Casado, alluding to the second of three emergency situations contemplated by the Spanish Constitution: state of alarm, exception and siege.

Source El Pais in English

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