Sanchez Digs In as Rajoy Bids to Knock Him Off Path to Run Spain

  • Socialists say they won't accept offer based on blackmail
  • Rajoy ducks confidence vote, vows to keep seeking support

Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez put a brake on rivals’ efforts to rush his bid to form the next Spanish government, signaling tough negotiations lie ahead before any administration can be formed.

With party elders railing at the antagonistic Podemos’s tone, the Socialists pushed back against the of anti-austerity group’s calls for Sanchez to lead a progressive government.

Pedro Sanchez

Photographer: Pau Barrena/Bloomberg

“We aren’t going to try an option for government based on blackmail and which puts party interests before those of the people,” the party said on its Twitter feed. 

Podemos chief Pablo Iglesias upended the so far orderly process of stitching together a government from the most divided parliament in Spanish history by proposing an alliance with the Socialists, the second-placed party in December’s election, and urging Sanchez to start negotiations in earnest. To spice up the offer, Iglesias goaded the Socialist leader for struggling to assert himself over senior party figures who oppose such an alliance.

“It’s the first time in my life I’ve heard someone offer a governing alliance while gravely insulting the party they’re seeking a deal with,” Sanchez’s predecessor as party leader, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, wrote on his Facebook page. “To reach an agreement with a party, the first thing you need to do is respect its leaders, its members and, of course, its voters.”

Rajoy Steps Back

With just 90 lawmakers in the 350-strong parliament, Sanchez has been maneuvering for first-placed Rajoy to face, and lose, a confidence vote in parliament before making any move to form a government. If Sanchez does take office, it would be the first time in the democratic era that the party with most votes hasn’t led the government.

Rajoy also refused to follow Sanchez’s script.

On Friday, King Felipe VI asked the acting prime minister to try to form the next government, but Rajoy refused saying he doesn’t have the support, for now, to win a confidence vote in parliament. He said he’ll keep working to try and get it.

“To be prime minister of Spain, it’s not enough to humiliate yourself,” Rajoy told supporters in Cordoba, southern Spain, Saturday, according to ABC newspaper. “We need a prime minister with dignity.”

PP Corruption Probe

Rajoy’s People Party was named as a suspect on Friday as part of a criminal probe into a corruption ring involving senior party officials, Cadena Ser reported Friday. The party itself was cited after officials allegedly destroyed evidence that had been requested by a judge at the National Court. Rajoy said he had no knowledge of the incident in an interview at the time and has denied any personal wrongdoing.

Acting Economy Minister Luis de Guindos defended Rajoy’s record during a Bloomberg Television interview from Davos.

“He won the elections, he was the leader of government that implemented the most remarkable turnaround in recent times,” de Guindos said. “The voters gave the victory to the People’s Party, it’s important to remember that.”

King Felipe will begin a second round of talks with party leaders on Wednesday as he seeks to chart a course out of the political impasse. Sanchez and Iglesias may speak on Sunday, according to a press officer for the Socialists, though her counterpart at Podemos said nothing has been scheduled so far.

For Sanchez, the biggest test may come next Saturday when he faces a meeting of his party’s federal committee. At that session, his internal opponents may try to impose conditions or even block an alliance with Podemos.

“Given the resistance within the Socialists to cut a deal with Podemos, it will be extremely hard for Sanchez to form a government,” Antonio Barroso, a political analyst at Teneo Intelligence in London, said in a note to clients Saturday. “The Socialists’ next move will be key to determine the chances of a PSOE-Podemos administration.”

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