Spain’s parliament has deposed Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in a no-confidence vote sparked by fury over his party’s corruption woes, paving the way for a takeover by opposition leader Pedro Sanchez.
An absolute majority of 180 legislators voted for the motion on Friday, making Rajoy the first prime minister to be removed in a no-confidence vote since Spain transitioned to democracy in 1977.
Speaking before the vote, Rajoy appeared to have accepted his fate and congratulated Sanchez on his new position.
“It has been an honour to be the prime minister of Spain,” he said.
It has been an honour to leave behind a better Spain than the one that I found when I took over government.
“I wish my substitute will be able to say the same.”
The vote was triggered by a scandal involving Rajoy’s centre-right People’s Party (PP), which saw former PP members handed jail sentences this month for their part in the long-running Operacion Guertel corruption case.
The sting looked at Spanish businessmen who were bribing PP politicians in exchange for lucrative public contracts, with the party receiving a $300,000 fine as a result.
Luis Barcenas, a senator and PP treasurer, had testified that the party kept a slush fund with donations from businessmen, and that some party officials received non-taxable bonuses in addition to their salaries.
Spanish media has placed the scandal under serious scrutiny, giving coverage to the raid in PP’s national headquarters and the destruction of hard drives. It then released a series of private messages between Rajoy and Barcenas.
Rajoy and other PP witnesses testified in court that the hidden accounts were unknown to them.