• Socialists start parallel talks with pro-market Ciudadanos
  • Podemos wouldn't be in any government alongside Ciudadanos

Spain’s Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez fended off Podemos’s demand to start exclusive negotiations to form a coalition government saying he had to seek a wider base of support to unseat acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

The Socialists are starting separate negotiation sessions with pro-market Ciudadanos and will continue to seek dialogue with parties to its political right as well as left, Sanchez said after meeting Podemos’s leader Pablo Iglesias Friday. Iglesias had earlier told reporters that Sanchez needed to inject urgency into his bid to form a government and should abandon contacts with Ciudadanos to choose him as his main partner.

Sanchez is seeking to build a coalition to oust Rajoy of the People’s Party who is still Spain’s acting leader some seven weeks after general elections failed to produce a clear winner. The European Commission this week urged the country to put a new government in place to as soon as possible to protect growth and keep up the battle to bring down its deficit.

“Today, Mr Iglesias proposed having exclusive negotiations,” Sanchez told reporters after his meeting with Podemos in the Spanish parliament. “We have to have a broad and open dialogue with political forces to build a progressive government.”

King Felipe VI has been coaxing party leaders to put together a program that can command the support of a majority of lawmakers. With Rajoy’s People’s Party buffeted by corruption allegations and increasingly toxic to potential allies, the most likely solution would see Sanchez seal a pact with either Podemos or pro-market Ciudadanos.

The Spanish parliament now has to set a date to hold a vote to test support for Sanchez’s bid to lead a government. If he doesn’t get an outright majority, a second vote would be held 48 hours later in which a simple majority would suffice. New elections would be called if political groups can’t forge a government pact within two months from the first vote in the parliament.

“I want to think that Pedro Sanchez will choose to work with us and United Left,” said Iglesias. “I insisted to him, that he has to decide. I hope he wants to form a government with us instead of Ciudadanos.”

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