Socialist Leader Says He's Ready to Try for Government in Spain

  • Incumbent Rajoy said last month he doesn't have enough votes
  • King Felipe holds talks with officials amid political deadlock

Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez told King Felipe VI he’s ready to try to form a government in Spain.

Sanchez said he’ll start talks with other political groups and try to win approval from parliament as soon as he’s asked to by the head of state. Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who meets the king at 5 p.m. in Madrid, acknowledged last month that his People’s Party was struggling to muster the backing to win a confidence vote in the assembly despite winning the most seats in December’s election.

“The Socialist Party is willing to start negotiations now,” Sanchez said at a televised press conference following talks with Felipe. “The Socialists will take a step forward and try to form a government if Rajoy gives up his duty.”

Six weeks after voters elected the most fragmented parliament in Spanish history, the king is trying to coax party leaders into setting aside differences to put together a program that can command the support of a majority of lawmakers. With Rajoy’s PP 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.

Podemos’s leader, Pablo Iglesias, offered to support a Socialist-led government last month, asking for the post of deputy prime minister and a share of cabinet posts in return. The prospect of such an alliance is stirring tensions within the Socialist leadership because the anti-austerity group is challenging the Socialists’ traditional dominance of the progressive vote, and because of its flirtation with Catalan separatism.

Sanchez won qualified support from his party hierarchy on Saturday to pursue negotiations with Podemos, after promising to give the federal committee a veto over any deal. Before that group gets to rule though, he’ll ballot party members to try and bolster his position.

Leaked Recordings

Susana Diaz, regional president in the party’s main stronghold of Andalusia, told the Socialists’ federal committee on Saturday she couldn’t imagine an alliance with Podemos, according to leaked recordings of the meeting published Monday by Cadena Ser radio.

Diaz would prefer to see an alliance with Ciudadanos, El Pais reported Tuesday.

The problem with that idea is that the two parties have only 130 lawmakers between them in the 350-seat parliament. Sanchez would need the PP’s 123 deputies or Podemos’s 69 to abstain in a confidence vote if he was to take power with Ciudadanos. Both parties have vowed to vote against that combination.

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera said his party would be prepared to abstain to allow Sanchez to become prime minister. Rivera said that while his party wouldn’t sit in government alongside Podemos, the two groups have common ground on issues such as electoral reform, fixing state institutions and boosting spending for the poorest Spaniards.

“With an abstention, we can set in motion reforms in a government of transition,” Rivera said after meeting the king in Madrid. “We’re not incompatible -- I suspect that when it comes to passing some laws Podemos and Ciudadanos can actually be allies.”

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