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Spanish deputies pass austerity plan by just one vote

Spanish deputies pass austerity plan by just one vote

Spanish deputies passed an austerity plan by just one vote Thursday, saving the Socialist government from probable collapse and easing markets' fears that the financial crisis would engulf its economy.
The unpopular 15-billion-euro (US$18.5 billion) plan, which includes a pay cut for civil servants, was passed on Thursday with 169 votes in favour, 168 against and 13 abstentions.
The governing Socialist Party backed the bill, while the conservative opposition Popular Party and other parties opposed it.
Crucially however, the 10 deputies of the Catalan nationalist CiU party were among those who abstained. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero does not hold a working majority and must rely on smaller parties to govern.
Observers had feared that a government defeat could have forced new elections, with disastrous repercussions on financial markets already nervous about the poor state of public finances in Spain.
The country has only just emerged from a long recession.
"Everyone knows what would happen if the government had not been able to pass the bill," said Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, secretary general of the Catalan nationalists, explaining his party's decision to abstain.
"The stock market would plunge and our debt would be hit. Our responsibility is to ensure that Spain does not fall into a deeper hole. I don't want Spain to come under protection like Greece."
But Duran i Lleida had harsh words for Zapatero, who appeared stony-faced in the chamber.
"Your time is finished ...," he told him.
"When the (2011) budget vote comes and when you cannot pass it, call elections that the country wants and needs."
Zapatero, under pressure from both Spain's EU partners and the markets, announced the austerity measures on May 12 in a bid to shore up Spain's public finances amid fears it could follow Greece into a debt crisis.
The cuts are on top of a 50-billion-euro austerity package announced in January designed to slash the public deficit to the eurozone limit of three percent of gross domestic product by 2013. Last year it stood at 11.2 percent.


Updated : 2021-04-12 06:38 GMT+08:00