Rajoy Says Spanish Socialists Will Deal With Anyone for Power

  • Socialist leader Sanchez seeks progressive pact to oust Rajoy
  • Prime minister says grand coalition is best option for Spain

Spain’s acting prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, criticized the Socialist party for ignoring his appeal to join a grand coalition, saying its bid to forge an alliance with the anti-austerity group Podemos would lead to chaos.

Rajoy said that a government backed by his People’s Party, the Socialists and pro-market Ciudadanos would be the truest reflection of December’s inconclusive election result and would allow him to continue his efforts to revamp the economy. The problem? The Socialists aren’t willing to talk.

Mariano Rajoy
Mariano Rajoy
Photographer: Pau Barrena/Bloomberg

According to Rajoy, his party has offered plenty of room to negotiate, but Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez is more interested in creating an alternative majority. Rajoy said that a multiparty alliance that included Catalan forces pushing for a breakaway from Spain would be a disaster. Sanchez can win an investiture vote with the support of either Podemos or Ciudadanos if other groups, alienated by Rajoy during his term in office, agree to abstain.

“The Socialist leader has made it clear: it’s anyone but the PP,” Rajoy said in an interview with Radio Nacional de Espana on Monday. “It takes two, and if one doesn’t want to, it’s difficult. It’s the Socialists who don’t want to negotiate with us.”

Before the Dec. 20 vote, Rajoy presented himself as the only candidate who could safeguard the economic recovery and maintain the unity of Spain amid an escalating stand-off with the separatist government in Catalonia, which is working on a plan to secede.

Socialist Challenge

While that promise won Rajoy the most votes, it wasn’t enough to secure a majority. As a result, it’s practically impossible for the prime minister to stay in office without some form of support from the Socialists. Sanchez has ruled that out, even though other senior officials within his party have urged him to consider it.

“The Socialist Party will be loyal to the millions of people who vote for the Socialists and to the majority who voted for political change,” Sanchez said at town-hall meeting in southern Spain Monday. “We hope that other progressive forces also respect that mandate.”

Sanchez has said that Rajoy should be the first to try to form a government. If he fails, then the Socialists will seek to build their own majority. The Socialists have proposed a series of Podemos-friendly policies such as a minimum income, a higher minimum wage, and rolling back Rajoy’s labor-market reforms as the first bills to go before the new parliament.

“Sanchez is doing whatever it takes to get to power,” Rajoy said. “He talks and gives ground to everyone except for the PP, which won the election. Spaniards have made it clear they want all the constitutional parties to talk.”

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