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Spain’s Socialist leader presses Podemos to back unlikely leadership bid

PSOE leader Pedro Sanchez delivers a speech in parliament at the start of an investiture debate in Madrid

By Angus Berwick and Blanca Rodríguez

Spain‘s Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez urged the anti-austerity party Podemos on Tuesday to back his proposed coalition with the liberal Ciudadanos as he geared up for a seemingly doomed parliamentary vote on his bid to form a government.

Sanchez, whose PSOE party came second in an inconclusive election in December, faces a confidence vote on Wednesday after acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s centre-right People’s Party (PP) passed him the baton last month.

Sanchez has secured the backing of Ciudadanos’s 40 lawmakers but his coalition is still 46 seats short of the absolute majority, 176 votes, that it needs on Wednesday for Sanchez to be elected prime minister.

If he fails then, he would require only a simple majority in a second vote on Friday, but such a result is also doubtful as both the PP and Podemos, which together command 192 seats, have already said they will vote against Sanchez.

In speech to parliament, Sanchez said a government of leftist parties, which he had previously supported, was impossible since it would not achieve a majority. Instead, he said, Podemos should join his coalition with Ciudadanos.

“In these elections, the left has not won enough seats to form a government of only one political colour,” he said. “Rather, those that have won a huge parliamentary majority are the forces of change.”

MONTHS OF DEADLOCK

Sanchez said Rajoy should step aside to allow such a government. “It is an error to think that the party with most votes has to govern,” he said to whistles from parliamentarians and a raised eyebrow from the acting prime minister.

Spain has been snarled in political deadlock since December’s ballot, with Rajoy having already failed to form a government a month ago.

Sanchez has ruled out any deal with the PP, which favours a coalition with the Socialists and Ciudadanos, under Rajoy as prime minister.

Podemos, which finished third in December, has refused to join a coalition with Ciudadanos and has called for a pact of leftist parties.

If Sanchez fails in both votes, other parties will then have two months to form an alternative majority, after which a fresh national election would be called, probably in June.

Political analysts expect little to shift in the parties’ negotiating positions if parliament rejects Sanchez’s proposal.

“The PP will continue to argue that a government led by them is the only realistic choice,” said Teneo Intelligence analyst Antonio Barroso.

“And Podemos will continue to attack the PSOE for not making a definitive turn to the left in order to cut a deal with them.”

According to recent surveys, most Spaniards expect a second election, which would produce a very similar result.

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