Spain Socialists Insist on Seeking Pact With Ciudadanos, Podemos

  • Ciudadanos sees little room for agreement with Podemos
  • Lawmakers face May 2 deadline to choose a new government

Spain’s Socialists plan to insist on seeking a three-way governing alliance with the anti-austerity Podemos party and the liberal Ciudadanos, even as the latter said it sees little room for agreement.

Negotiators from the three parties met at parliament in on Madrid Thursday. The three groups can muster 199 lawmakers in the 350-seat parliament, enough to oust caretaker Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy if they reach a deal.

“An agreement is very difficult but not impossible,” Antonio Hernando, a Socialist lawmaker, said at news conference after the two-hour meeting. “There’s enough common ground that would make it possible to form a government.”

Since an inconclusive Dec. 20 election that cost Rajoy a third of his lawmakers and his outright majority, Spanish lawmakers have been wrangling over a new coalition. Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez and his Ciudadanos counterpart Albert Rivera signed a pact in February setting out their common policy plans. Sanchez has also been holding talks with Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias since the Easter break to add the support of the party’s 69 lawmakers.

The three parties are up against a May 2 deadline to find a solution or face new elections, but differences remain between the pro-market Ciudadanos and Podemos, which handed a 20-point proposal to its potential partners including a guaranteed income for families below the poverty line and a plan to increase public spending by 62 billion euros ($71 billion) over four years.

“The positions are very distant,” Ciudadanos undersecretary Jose Manuel Villegas said in a separate press conference after the talks. He said Ciudadanos will provide feedback on the Podemos proposals in the coming hours. “There are proposals that can hardly can be accepted, such as the expansion of the public expenditure,” he said.

Representatives of the three parties plan to talk tomorrow to decide over whether they should meet next week, the Socialist party’s Hernando said. Iglesias has scheduled a news conference for Friday at 11:30 a.m.

Negotiations have also been complicated by political and personal friction between the party leaders, which could still torpedo any potential the coalition. Last month Iglesias riled Socialist lawmakers by bringing up their party’s involvement in the assassination of ETA terrorists by the security forces in the 1980s.

On Wednesday, he clashed with Rivera, labeling the Ciudadanos leader Rajoy’s “brother-in-law” because of their parties’ similar stances on the economy and Catalonia. Rivera retorted that Podemos was hiring “the friends and girlfriends” of its leaders.

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