Madrid, Nov 12 (IANS) The Spanish Socialist Party and left-wing group Unidas Podemos on Tuesday signed a memorandum proposing what would be Spain’s first-ever coalition government following a repeat general election that failed to end a political deadlock and bolstered the far-right.
PSOE leader, Pedro Sánchez, who is the acting prime minister, and Pablo Iglesias, co-founder and leader of anti-corruption Podemos set out the preliminary stages of a four-year deal to run a “progressive” government, Efe news reported.
“It will be a resoundingly progressive government,” Sánchez said in joint televised speech after signing the memorandum. “Spain needs a stable government, not an interim one.”
Sánchez, whose PSOE won Sunday’s repeat general election but once again fell short of an absolute majority, reiterated his appeal for other political parties in Parliament to act “responsibly” and with “generosity” to allow the formation of a government.
Iglesias described the move as the best “vaccine” against the rise of the far-right in Spain after the ultra-nationalist Vox party stormed into third place in Sunday’s vote, more doubling its number of seats in Parliament from 24 to 52.
He reiterated his line that the collapsed talks between PSOE and Podemos after the inconclusive April election had been a missed “historic opportunity” and that now a deal was a “historic necessity.”
The pair sealed the announcement with an embrace.
After the April vote, Sánchez has said he would struggle to sleep if Podemos took control of Spanish ministries, but the two leaders have sought to bury the hatchet.
The 10-point document included policies on job creation, tackling corruption, climate change, curbing the spread of betting shops, boosting women’s rights and seeking an end to the political crisis in Catalonia.
Spain’s acting defence minister, Margarita Robles, said the deal between the PSOE and Podemos had been expedited in the wake of Vox’s strong outing in the polls as it attracted a million more votes between April and November.
The announcement from Spain’s largest left-wing parties comes just two days after a repeat general election failed to produce a way out of a political deadlock that has dogged the country since December 2015.
In that time, two general elections and two repeat elections have resulted in hung parliaments as the PSOE and the conservative Popular Party find themselves unable to form a majority government for the first time since democracy returned to democracy in the late 1970s.
Sánchez’s PSOE took 120 seats on Sunday — three fewer than in April — while Podemos, a coalition running with the United Left and regional allies took 35 overall, meaning the coalition deal would have the default backing of 155, which is 26 short of an absolute majority.
Center-right Ciudadanos, formerly the third force in Parliament, collapsed on Sunday from 57 to 10 seats, prompting the resignation of its leader Albert Rivera.
In order to command a majority in Parliament, the PSOE leader will have to turn to smaller groups like Más País — which splintered off from Podemos — and the regional Basque nationalists.
The PSOE and Podemos may also need the PP, the second-largest party in the chamber, and the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), the largest separatist party in Congress, to abstain.
PP leader Pablo Casado, whose party took 88 seats on Sunday, up from just 66 seven months ago, suggested he would not facilitate the coalition.
“They won’t need saddlebags for this journey.”
“Pedro Sánchez announced a deal and offered the vice-presidency to Iglesias to form a radical government, which is the opposite of what Spain’s needs.”
The coalition proposal would need to be backed by an absolute majority — or be facilitated by abstentions — in a first round of voting in Parliament but if it heads to a second round, Sánchez would only need a simple majority.
Any deals with Basque or Catalan separatists would likely be jumped on by right-wing parties.
Yet, the combined seats of right-wing parties in Spain’s Parliament also come up short of an absolute majority, although they have more overall than the left.
Vox’s leader Santiago Abascal was quick to respond to the announcement.
“The PSOE embraces Bolivarian communism, the allies of a coup d’état, in the middle of a coup d’état. We will hold you responsible for any damage to our coexistence and constitutional order.”