MADRID – Last-ditch coalition negotiations between acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist Party and a grassroots left-wing party eyeing up ministerial influence ended inconclusively Wednesday just a day before a second crucial vote in parliament that will decide whether or not Spain gets a government this week.
Sanchez, who wants to remain in office, failed to command an absolute majority in the lower chamber, the Congress of Deputies, in an initial vote on Tuesday, receiving the support of just 124 of the 350 lawmakers in the hemicycle.
The result was widely expected but now the Socialists (PSOE) are pinning their hopes on talks with Unidas Podemos (“United We Can”) ahead of a second vote Thursday, in which Sanchez just needs a simple majority, more yes votes than noes.
With just 24 hours to go until that key vote, however, talks between the parties were paused without a conclusion.
Podemos lamented a lack of compromise from PSOE.
“Unidas Podemos does not want to enter government at whatever price, we want the ability to develop social policies in the Equality, Employment and Ecological Transition ministries,” the outfit said.
PSOE, on the other hand, awaited Podemos’ response to its final offer.
Throughout the day there was little comment coming from either camp and those who did make statements did little to clarify proceedings.
“There are reasons to be worried,” said Josep Borrell, the foreign minister. “But also reasons to be hopeful.”
PSOE decided to delay its Federal Executive Board meeting to give both parties more time to drum up a coalition agreement.
Sources from Podemos told EFE that the PSOE’s vice-president Carmen Calvo was locked in conversations with Pablo Echenique, who presides over the Podemos’ institutional organization, into the early afternoon.
Podemos, which is led by Pablo Iglesias, has set its sights on ministry roles.
But before talks got underway, PSOE made clear that one of its conditions was that Iglesias himself should not pitch for a ministerial position, a potentially awkward situation in the Iglesias household – Irene Montero, a Podemos MP and Iglesias’s partner.
In a video message, Iglesias said he would not put himself forward for a ministerial post but during the first day of parliamentary debate on Sanchez’s investiture, he made it clear that his party would not be disregarded in the talks.
“Respect our 3.7 million voters and don’t offer us a decorative role in government because we are not going to accept that,” he told lawmakers.
Sanchez himself kicked off proceedings with a two-hour speech in which he did not mention the world coalition and only addressed Podemos at the end.
The PSOE leader later said he had offered Podemos a share of the cabinet and acknowledged it would be further to the left of the PSOE’s usual center-left stomping ground than usual.
He spent more time criticizing lawmakers on the conservative benches, which includes members of the PSOE’s more traditional foe, the Popular Party, which is a bastion of the Spanish center-right, Ciudadanos, a younger center-right party, and Vox, a far-right newcomer to the chamber.
PSOE is the largest party in the chamber with 123 seats after it overturned the PP’s mathematical dominance in a snap election in April 2018.
To stay in office, Sanchez needs the support of Podemos and at least the abstention from Basque and Catalan separatists, something the Spanish right had been steadfastly against.
If talks succeed, Spain will have a coalition government for the first time in its modern democratic history.