Rajoy looks set to lose no-confidence vote

Spain’s conservative government appeared doomed Thursday to lose a no-confidence vote in parliament, with the center-left Socialist party poised to take power.

A Basque nationalist party’s announcement that it would vote in favor of the motion spelled the almost certain end of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s mandate and foretold the stunning collapse of his minority government in a parliamentary vote Friday, when it will be short of support to survive.

Officials of Rajoy’s Popular Party dismissed speculation that he might resign ahead of the vote.

“The PP has faced up to all the problems that have come its way,” Defense Minister María Dolores de Cospedal, the party secretary general, told reporters.

The Popular Party’s reputation was badly damaged by a court verdict that identified it as a beneficiary of a large kickbacks-for-contracts scheme.

Under a Spanish law that prevents a power vacuum, Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez, who tabled the no-confidence motion, would immediately become the new leader of the
19-member euro zone’s No. 4 economy.

Rajoy has been in power since December 2011, successfully steering Spain out of its worst economic crisis in decades during the euro-zone debt crisis.

— Associated Press

Lawmakers vote to ban full-face veils in public

Denmark joined some other European countries in deciding Thursday to ban garments that cover the face, including Islamic veils such as the niqab or burqa, in public settings.

In a 75-to-30 vote with 74 absentees, lawmakers approved the measure presented by the center-right governing coalition. The government says the new law is not aimed at any religion and does not ban headscarves, turbans or the traditional Jewish skull cap.

However, the law, popularly known as the “burqa ban,” is mostly seen as being directed at the dress habits of some conservative Muslim women. Few Muslim women in Denmark wear full-face veils.

The law goes into effect Aug. 1. It allows people to cover their faces when there is a “recognizable purpose,” like cold weather or complying with other legal requirements, such as using helmets while riding motorcycles.

Austria, France and Belgium have similar laws.

— Associated Press

Far right calls for probe into 2015 migrant crisis

The far-right Alternative for Germany party put forward a formal motion Thursday calling for a parliamentary investigation into the government’s handling of the migrant crisis three years ago.

The party, which came in third in last year’s national election, wants Parliament to determine whether Chancellor Angela Merkel broke the law by refusing to shut Germany’s borders to refugees in September 2015.

Hundreds of thousands of people streamed into the country during the fall of 2015, most of them fleeing wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The influx eventually resulted in more than a million asylum requests in Germany, straining the country’s resources and inflaming anti-migrant sentiment among sections of the population.

Although the number of new arrivals has dropped sharply since then, the impact of so many asylum seekers remains a topic of debate in the nation of 80 million.

Beatrix von Storch, a lawmaker for the Alternative for Germany, known by its acronym AfD, said recent revelations about corruption allegations at the government agency that handles asylum requests would be part of the proposed probe.

But she added that AfD wants the investigation to go all the way to the top.

— Associated Press

U.N. agencies agree to help in return of Rohingya to Burma: Burma said it has reached an agreement with two U.N. agencies for their help in the return of refugees who fled violence in western Rakhine state and sought refuge in Bangladesh. The government said it signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.N. Development Program and the U.N. refugee agency for their help so that verified displaced people "can return voluntarily in safety and dignity."

Burundi court validates vote to extend president's tenure: Burundi's constitutional court has upheld the results of the May 17 referendum showing that 73 percent of voters supported constitutional changes that could allow the president to stay in power until 2034. The changes include extending the president's term from five years to seven. That could give Pierre Nkurunziza, in power since 2005, 14 more years when his current term expires in 2020.

— From news services