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Spanish opposition rejects far-right's no-confidence vote on PM Sanchez


By Belén Carreño

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's centre-right opposition rejected a far-right proposal for a vote of no-confidence in the Socialist government on Thursday, a move which Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez seized on to propose a political deal over judicial reform.

The no-confidence motion over the minority leftist government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic was easily defeated when ultranationalist party Vox was the only party to back it. The motion was rejected by 298-52 votes.

The main opposition People's Party's decision to vote against it rather than abstain was seen as a gesture by PP leader Pablo Casado to distance his party from Vox and present himself as a more moderate figure.

"You are already part of Spain's problem and cannot be part of the solution that my party represents," Casado told Vox leader Santiago Abascal in a speech to parliament before the vote on the motion, which he denounced as a "circus show".

"PP does not want to be the party of lies, fear, rage and manipulation."

Abascal said PP had committed "a gigantic error" by rejecting the motion.

The prime minister responded to Casado's gesture by proposing a deal with the PP on a long-stalled judicial reform, which has held up the appointment of new judges to higher courts for two years.

"I announce here that on our behalf we will stop the clock of the reform of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) so we can reach an agreement with you ... for the sake of our democracy," Sanchez said.

Vox rose from obscurity to become the third largest group in parliament, and shares power with the PP in some regional and municipal governments. But the centre-right PP has been at pains to distance itself from the far right at the national level.

The central government has frequently clashed with regional authorities and with Casado over coronavirus measures, and some experts say those political quarrels have hampered the fight against the pandemic.

This week Spain became the first nation in Western Europe to pass 1 million total infections.

(Reporting by Belén Carreño; Writing by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Ingrid Melander)

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