Sunday

29th Mar 2020

Spanish PM hopes to avoid election with 300-point plan

  • Among the 370 suggestions presented by acting prime minister Pedro Sánchez are plans to curb the 'abusive rises' of rents, the universalisation of free public nurseries and an advance towards a more sustainable and fair taxation system (Photo: Pedro Sanchez Facebook page)

Spain's acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has insisted he can solve the country's five-month old political deadlock without repeating elections or agreeing on a formal coalition government.

Instead, the socialist leader is trying to persuade the leftist Unidas Podemos (UP) - a coalition of the Podemos and the United Left parties - to support him in ruling with a Portuguese-style minority government.

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On Tuesday (3 September) his centre-left Socialist Party (PSOE) presented a "common progressive program" with over 300 social, economic and political proposals.

According to the acting PM, "between new elections and a coalition government, there is an alternative, and that is a government with a common progressive programme."

This "open programme" leaves the door open for future negotiations with Unidas Podemos over what the socialists call "the second major political, economic, social and cultural transformation" of Spain.

Among the 370 suggestions presented by Sánchez there are plans to curb the "abusive rises" of rents, the universalisation of free public nurseries and an advance towards a more sustainable and fair taxation system.

This proposal is based on the PSOE electoral planning of April and July, but also on the meeting of the acting PM with more than 370 civil society organisations that took place in August.

Speaking at the event unveiling the new document, Sánchez said that his party has "deep differences" with Unidas Podemos, but he referred to this new proposal as "a rigorous system of [political] control" that could establish trust between both parties.

"There are no conditions today to become government partners - but that does not have to make us adversaries," he added.

Sánchez has until 23 September to get the support he needs to take office.

If he does not make it then the parliament is to be dissolved, with the fourth elections in just four years to be held on 10 November.

The socialist leader won the highest number of seats in April elections, but fell short of an absolute majority.

The investiture sessions then held in July were not successful for Sánchez, who failed to attract the votes needed to take office twice.

The acting PM said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El País last week that there were two main reasons why the coalition government with Unidas Podemos did not flourish in July.

"First, the lack of [mutual] trust was evidenced" and secondly, Unidas Podemos' idea of a coalition was "more a coalition of governments than a coalition government per se," he said.

According to the spokeswoman of Unidas Podemos, "there are only two options [for the upcoming government]: a coalition of right-wing or left-wing parties. It seems that the only one who does not understand this is Pedro Sánchez".

"Bipartisanship will no longer work in this country," she added.

The next meeting between the two leaders has not an official date yet, although the negotiation teams are due to meet again this week to advance possible agreements.

According to the Unidas Podemos' spokeswoman, the leaders are not likely to sit together before 10 September.

Spain heading for new elections?

Unidas Podemos has already dismissed the latest proposal of Sánchez to have a minority socialist government, and they insist on having the first coalition administration in Spain in its recent history.

"Why should we wait for November [to agree on a coalition government] if we can do it now?," asked the spokeswoman.

Additionally, the leader of Unidas Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, has stated publicly that Sánchez is already working for a new election, since the polls predict a rise for the PSOE - which he considered an "irresponsibility".

Iglesias confirmed last week that if Sanchez puts July's offer back on the table (a coalition government without Iglesias as a minister), there could be an agreement within hours.

However, the socialist leader responded that "Spain cannot allow more instability or a government that does not last four years".

The leader of the nationalist Basque Country Party (PNV), an essential partner for Sánchez to take office, also stated last week that "it would be total irresponsibility" if the PSOE decides to hold a fresh snap election because "he gets maybe a dozen more deputies."

The socialists, who have only 123 seats in Congress, depend on the support of Unidas Podemos' 42 deputies, but also on the abstention of smaller parties, such as PNV.

The socialist leader is currently not the candidate for a new investiture session - this is a condition only granted by the Spanish monarch, and that has not taken place yet to allow dialogue between the parties.

However, acting deputy PM Carmen Calvo warned that Sánchez will only be presented as the candidate for the investiture in September if he can count on the support he needs to take office.

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