Podemos and Socialist leaders fail to reach deal in first face-to-face meeting

Both party chiefs agree on leaving negotiations in hands of regional and municipal bosses

Pedro Sánchez in Socialist Party headquarters in Madrid on Wednesday.
Pedro Sánchez in Socialist Party headquarters in Madrid on Wednesday.Samuel Sanchez (EL PAÍS)

Spanish Socialist Party secretary general Pedro Sánchez and the leader of anti-austerity party Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, held their first face-to-face meeting on Wednesday night in order to seek common ground over possible deals in the highly fragmented political scenario that emerged from the May 24 regional and municipal elections.

The encounter failed to produce any specific agreements, but neither had it been expected to, given that its chief aim was for the leaders to meet each other and attempt to normalize political relations between their parties. The two groups had been at loggerheads in the run-up to the elections as they both campaigned for the leftist vote, often exchanging derogatory remarks about one another.

Now, though, they have found themselves needing to join together in order to keep the conservative Popular Party (PP) from power in many regions and municipalities.

The two leaders talked about Europe, democratic regeneration and measures to combat inequality

The two leaders talked about Europe, democratic regeneration and measures to combat inequality, and both agreed on the need to leave negotiations on possible power deals in the hands of individual regional and municipal party chiefs.

In the last 48 hours, the leaders of Spain’s two main political forces, the ruling center-right Popular Party and the Socialists, and those of the two emerging parties, Podemos and Ciudadanos, have held a number of meetings, which have failed to yield significant results.

The one exception is in the case of Sánchez and Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera. The Socialist chief has requested that Rivera help his party keep the PP out of power in municipal and regional governments where it is tainted by corruption. Rivera’s party, Sánchez said, “cannot support the PP, which is involved in the Púnica [corruption] case, if [Ciudadanos] defends, as it does and I believe it does, democratic regeneration.” The Socialist leader is hoping Rivera’s party will back his candidates for regional premier in the Madrid, Valencia, Murcia and Castilla y León regions.

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At the same time the Socialists have also begun conversations over possible power deals with Podemos in the regions of Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura, Valencia and Madrid.

After their meeting on Wednesday Sánchez and Iglesias sat down to a private dinner held in a friendly atmosphere, at which they both chatted about one of their other shared interests: basketball. “It was a cordial meeting and we will remain in contact,” said Iglesias, adding that the encounter had served to put on the table “the things on which we agree and the differences.”

A large part of the conversation was devoted to the need for democratic regeneration and social rights, with Sánchez expressing his determination to carry out far-reaching changes.

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