Ciudadanos, Podemos ready to reach deals with Socialists after elections

Fragmentation of vote will likely require negotiations between old and new parties

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera in Valencia on Wednesday.
Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera in Valencia on Wednesday.Kai Försterling (EFE)

With three days to go before Spaniards go to the polls in local and regional elections, newcomer parties Podemos and Ciudadanos seem more willing to forge post-election agreements with the Socialists (PSOE) than with the center-right Popular Party (PP).

In an unprecedented scenario of political fragmentation where smaller groups could hold the key to many city councils and regional assemblies, the need to find common ground becomes more relevant than ever before.

At least apparently, the PSOE is seeking ways to change its discourse and renew itself”

Matías Alonso, secretary general for Ciudadanos

While the PP secured a landslide victory in 2011 and currently controls many local and regional governments, as well as enjoying an absolute majority at the national level, analysts are forecasting a big drop in support for the conservatives as a result of numerous corruption scandals.

Meanwhile, the main opposition Socialists also stand to lose votes to Podemos, the anti-austerity party that rose to prominence at last year’s European elections, and to Ciudadanos, originally a Catalan party that has made the leap to the national arena on a message of democratic renewal.

Podemos' secretary for politics, Iñigo Errejón, at a party rally in Palma de Mallorca. EFE/MONTSERRAT T DIEZ
Podemos' secretary for politics, Iñigo Errejón, at a party rally in Palma de Mallorca. EFE/MONTSERRAT T DIEZMONTSERRAT T DIEZ (EFE)

Ciudadanos leaders have approached PSOE secretary general Pedro Sánchez because they say they sense a greater desire for the kind of renewal they have in mind, such as introducing primaries where all party members can vote for candidates, rather than the current system where leaders cherry-pick their running mates. So far, the PP has refused the notion of primaries, with one leader calling it “an American thing.”

“You have to keep in mind that we are a markedly progressive party; we feel a lot more affinity with the PSOE [than with the PP],” says Matías Alonso, secretary general for Ciudadanos. “At least apparently, the PSOE is seeking ways to change its discourse and renew itself.”

Pedro Sánchez, for his part, has described Ciudadanos as “the civilized right that it is possible to talk with.”

But Ciudadanos and the Socialists are at odds in Andalusia, where premier-elect Susana Díaz cannot get herself invested into office because of lack of support in the regional assembly.

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“There is an eroded party in government, the PP, and another one, the PSOE, which has renewed itself somewhat but still insufficiently,” says Francesc de Carreras, a professor of constitutional law who does not have an official position within Ciudadanos but has signed its foundational manifesto.

Podemos, which clearly defines itself as leftist, also expects to negotiate with the PSOE after May 24, said the party’s number two, Iñigo Errejón. The group’s popularity, which has grown exponentially over the last year to the point of leading voting intention polls, has begun to decline over the last month, as Spaniards hesitate between giving it their protest vote or heeding the mainstream parties’ warnings about Podemos’s alleged populism.

Podemos leaders have repeatedly said that their main goal for this Sunday is to eject the PP from its positions of power at the local and regional levels. While nobody is talking about specific deals with the Socialists yet, the party does accept that they are its most likely partners.

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