Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy delivers a speech during a motion of no confidence debate at Parliament in Madrid, May 2018.
Juan Carlos Hidalgo / REUTERS

Call it the revenge of the separatists. At the end of last week, Spain’s leading nationalist-regionalist parties, the Basque Nationalist Party and the Republican Left of Catalonia, delivered the crucial votes for the censure motion that ousted Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the right-wing Popular Party (PP) from power. The motion was orchestrated by the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE). An obscure stipulation in the Spanish constitution borrowed from Germany, such a motion allows for the removal of a sitting government if a successful vote of no confidence is accompanied by the selection of the next head of government with an absolute parliamentary majority. The vote last week made Rajoy the first Spanish leader in the post-Franco era to exit office in such an ignoble manner. The Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez, now Madrid’s new prime minister, had given Rajoy multiple chances to resign, but Rajoy chose to be forced out rather than to leave of his own accord.

This was a spectacular fall for one of western Europe’s longest-ruling premiers, but not an altogether surprising one. An uncharismatic politician from the northwestern region of Galicia, Rajoy had been defying the laws of political gravity

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