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Spain on the cusp of election re-run as last-ditch talks fail

Podemos party leader Iglesias speaks during a news conference at the parliament in Madrid,

By Julien Toyer and Blanca Rodríguez

A new national election in Spain looked inevitable on Tuesday as left-wing parties failed in a last-minute attempt to form a coalition government and resolve a four-month political stalemate.

The parties have been unable to form a new government since December, when elections ended inconclusively, and unless there is a deal in the coming hours, it will be technically impossible to hold a parliamentary confidence vote to elect a new Prime Minister before a May 2 deadline for formal negotiations.

Raising hopes that a last-ditch coalition deal was possible, the Socialists said on Tuesday they were ready to agree on 27 of 30 proposals made by small leftist party Compromis and modelled on a deal it helped broker last year between left-wing forces in the Eastern region of Valencia.

But anti-austerity party Podemos said those three conditions – mainly who should take part in the government and how to ensure its stability – had made any agreement impossible and a new vote was now likely to take place.

“It was an effort that we would have liked to make a reality but unfortunately the Socialists said no,” Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias told reporters.

Iglesias, however, said he would still try to form an alliance with the Socialists if a new election took place, although they would have to bury their disagreements over fundamental issues including economic policy and the degree of autonomy to grant Catalonia.

Fulfilling the royal family’s established role as a political broker, King Felipe is due to complete separate one-to-one meetings with party leaders on Tuesday afternoon, the third such round of negotiations since December.

The King asked parties on Monday to keep the costs of a new political campaign down, a sign he had little hope a viable pact could be found, and some leaders have already acknowledged they lack the support of rivals to secure a parliamentary majority.

In December’s election, which produced the most fragmented result in decades, the centre-right People’s Party (PP) of caretaker Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy won 123 seats in the 350-seat lower house of parliament, while the Socialists took 90, Podemos 69 and Ciudadanos 40.

Although opinion polls suggest a new election would do little to resolve the deadlock, leaders have entered pre-campaign mode, blaming each other for the impasse which may start taking its toll on the economy more noticeably if Spain remains without a government for many more months.

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