Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s caretaker prime minister, has set out his plans to win the support of the radical left to form a “progressive government”, as expectations rise of a general election in November.
In an attempt to break a parliamentary deadlock between his Socialist party and the leftwing Podemos, Mr Sánchez on Tuesday outlined 370 proposals for a new government, including changes to labour reforms initiated by a previous centre-right administration, indexation of pensions and more funds for education, health and housing.
Mr Sánchez needs the support of Podemos because, unless he wins a parliamentary vote on forming a new government by September 23, Spain will hold a general election on November 10 — its fourth in four years.
“There is no alternative to this formula, no matter how you add it up,” Mr Sánchez said as he outlined his proposals. “There is no objective reason why there should be another election on 10 November . . . Before this month is over, Spain can have a progressive government that faces old and new challenges alike.”
But the two parties remain at loggerheads because the Socialists have ruled out a formal coalition, which they say will be unstable, but Pablo Iglesias, the Podemos leader, insists any deal must involve a coalition.
“It’s a game of chicken,” one person close to the ruling Socialists said. “Either Iglesias gives Sánchez his vote or he blocks the formation of a progressive government and we have elections in November.”
Although the Socialists won Spain’s election in April with 29 per cent of the vote, the party’s 123 MPs cannot command a majority on their own in the 350-member Chamber of Deputies and would fall slightly short even with Podemos’s 42 seats.
Podemos rejected a Socialist coalition proposal in July and although it now said it would accept such an arrangement, Mr Sánchez said it was no longer on the table, largely because of the distrust between the two parties.
The acting prime minister has also been buoyed by opinion polls indicating a rise in support for the Socialists, while Podemos, which seeks to supplant Mr Sánchez’s party as the country’s leading leftwing force, has seen its support diminish in recent elections.
On Tuesday, Mr Sánchez suggested a coalition between the two could break up in coming months, labelling it “unviable”.
Instead, he offered to negotiate a common programme with Podemos on the basis of his 370 proposals, to set up formal bodies within the government and parliament to scrutinise the execution of the plan, and to give Podemos a role in government institutions — but not ministerial posts.
But Mr Iglesias gave little indication on Tuesday that he would give his backing to a Socialist minority government. “I’m ready to humiliate myself, but not the 3.7m voters who have voted for Podemos,” he told Spanish television shortly before Mr Sánchez’s announcement.
Raymond Torres, chief economist at Funcas, Spain’s savings banks foundation, said he did not “see much of a shift to the left” in Mr Sánchez’s economic plans.
The labour market changes proposed by Mr Sánchez did not include a longstanding call by unions to return to sectoral rather than company-wide agreements, he said. But he also noted that the Socialists’ plans would drop a legal reference to the “sustainability” of the pension system without a clear proposal for its replacement.
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