Rajoy prepares Popular Party for failure of Socialists deal offer

Spain’s acting prime minister puts party on election footing

Mariano Rajoy during a meeting with Popular Party leaders in Madrid.
Mariano Rajoy during a meeting with Popular Party leaders in Madrid.Tarek / EFE

One month after inconclusive elections that yielded a hung parliament, and with Spanish politicians still unable to reach deals to form a government, acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is preparing his Popular Party (PP) for the fact that there will be no grand coalition with the Socialists (PSOE).

Rajoy, who favors a three-way alliance of the two traditional rivals plus the emerging Ciudadanos party, said that he is not planning to meet with Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez any more because “it is very difficult to negotiate with someone who refuses to talk.”

Close aides said Rajoy would not hold talks with Sánchez again until Congress calls the first investiture session

The conservative leader is also accusing Sánchez, whose party came in second at the December 20 election with 90 seats, of trying to reach an alternative “all-against-one” deal with other parties with the sole purpose of avoiding a government led by the PP, which won the most seats at the election (123) but fell short of the congressional majority required to go it alone (176).

Although Rajoy feels that “there is enormous leeway for mutual agreement,” Sánchez appears to favor an alliance of leftist forces similar to the one currently governing Portugal, a country he recently visited to gain insights into the political situation there.

On Monday, Rajoy addressed his party to prepare it for the near-certain failure of his bid to secure support from Sánchez. Close aides said Rajoy would not meet with him one-on-one again, or even have a telephone conversation with him, until Congress calls the first investiture session, in which Rajoy will attempt to get reinstated.

This session will likely be held in late January or early February.

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If no nominee is successful, a second round of voting will be called. And if that fails again, Spain will be forced to hold a fresh election in late May, even though the latest voter survey shows that the outcome would be another fractured parliament with few changes to its makeup.

Meanwhile, King Felipe VI has been meeting with political leaders to discuss likely outcomes, as part of the pre-investiture protocol encoded in Spanish laws.

Although these meetings have always been a mere formality in a system where either the PP or the PSOE always had enough votes to form a government, the fragmented scenario that emerged on December 20 has given the monarch a greater role as mediator.

All the party leaders who have already met with Felipe VI said the king seemed fully aware of the possibility that no agreement would be reached.

English version by Susana Urra.

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