Leaked Socialist Audio Shows Hurdles to Podemos's Spain Deal

  • Recordings show internal dissent as leader seeks alliance
  • Socialists seeking to govern after worst election result ever

Leaked recordings from a closed meeting of the Spanish Socialist Party leadership show opposition to a pact with anti-austerity group Podemos as King Felipe starts a second round of talks aimed at finding a prime minister.

At a meeting of the party’s federal committee Saturday, Socialist heavweights criticized Podemos and urged leader Pedro Sanchez to steer clear of an alliance with the group, according to the recordings posted by Cadena Ser radio station on its website. The Socialist leadership said in an e-mailed statement that it was “indignant” at the leak which was a breach of party rules and could prevent free discussion at future meetings.

Despite suffering the worst election results in its history, the Socialists have a shot at leading the next government because Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is struggling to put together a majority in parliament after losing a third of his lawmakers. But with just 90 seats in the 350-strong assembly, the Socialists would need the support of Podemos’s 69 lawmakers and possibly the abstention of smaller nationalist parties to win a confidence vote.

Susana Diaz, who governs the party’s main stronghold of Andalusia, said she couldn’t imagine an alliance with Podemos while Javier Fernandez, a senior party member, warned the anti-austerity party is trying to take away the Socialists’ support among progressive voters, according to the audio.

“I can’t see a government with Podemos, I just don’t see it,” Diaz said. “That’s not the Socialist government with a progressive agenda that we’ve discussed here.”

Separatist Dilemma

Guillermo Fernandez Vara, president of Extremadura, and Eduardo Madina, who lost out to Sanchez in a 2014 leadership contest, warned against entering deals with Catalan or Basque groups pushing for independence because it might upset Socialist voters in other parts of the country.

“If we build the government of Spain on 17 guys who want to break it apart, we will break Spain and the Socialist party,” Madina said.

Sanchez may have a way to avoid relying on the nationalists after Albert Rivera, leader of pro-market Ciudadanos, said he’d consider abstaining to allow the Socialists and Podemos to win a confidence vote. Rivera, whose party counts with 40 seats in parliament, said failing to form a government would be a “collective failure” for all political groups.

“With an abstention, we can set in motion reforms in a government of transition,” Rivera said after meeting the king in Madrid Monday. “Spain needs to know we’re working to set up reforms.”

Meeting Felipe VI

Spanish officials are embarking on a second round of talks with the head of state to find a candidate who can rally enough support to win a confidence vote in parliament. In the previous round, Rajoy rejected the king’s invitation to ask for lawmakers’ backing saying he didn’t have enough support. The king is due to meet Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias later Monday while Sanchez and Rajoy visit the palace on Tuesday.

Iglesias offered his support to the Socialists after his last conversation with Felipe on Jan. 22, demanding the post of deputy prime minister and a string of top cabinet jobs in return.

Over the weekend, the 43-year-old Sanchez sought to outflank his opponents within the federal committee by offering rank-and-file members a vote on any coalition agreement. While the ballot is non-binding, it would raise the cost of challenging him for dissenters within the party leadership.

The parliament has two months to elect a government from the date of the first confidence vote. If no one can form an administration, the nation could be heading for fresh elections in the spring.

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