Censure vote shows need for change in Spain

By a narrow margin of only 14 votes, Prime Minister Adolfo Suarez has avoided defeat in a parliamentary debate that could have brought down his minority government.

The strong implication of the May 30 vote is that Mr. Suarez has been warned -- and in the most emphatic way to date -- that his style of government must change.

The vote also signaled a clear breakdown in the two-party system that was considered feasible when Spain's democratic system of government was launched in 1977.

In this context, the vote in parliament, coupled with the results of recent general, municipal, and regional elections, clearly indicate that Spain has switched to a multifaceted system. Neither the ruling Democratic Center Union party nor the Socialists now seem capable of commanding an absolute majority without the support of other political groups.

Mr. Suarez only managed to defeat a May 30 censure motion presented by the powerful Socialist Party, with the support of his own party, the Democratic Center Union. This makes it all the more urgent for the embattled prime minister to seek new allies if he is to be ensured of a working majority in parliament.

It was considered significant that when the Socialists presented the censure motion they made it clear that they did not expect it to succeed, but rather hoped in this way to put a stop both to the government's shift to the right over the past year and to the sharp deterioration in the democratic process.

But the government was sharply rebuked in the debates by a majority of politicians, and the motion of censure was backed by the Communists, the Andalusian party, and other regional deputies, indicating considerable support for the Socialist Party's stand.

Because of the peculiarities of Spanish regulations, when the Socialist Party presented its motion of censure, this did not simply imply a questioning of Mr. Suarez' administration. It also carried the obligation that the Socialists themselves present an alternative government program.

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