Podemos chief tells king of intention to form government with Socialists, IU

Pablo Iglesias offers to act as deputy prime minister in a “government of change”

El Rey Felipe VI recibe al líder de Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, este viernes.
El Rey Felipe VI recibe al líder de Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, este viernes.EFE

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias is ready to join the Socialist Party (PSOE) and the United Left (IU) in an alternative “government of change” where he would be the deputy prime minister.

The secretary general of the anti-austerity party expressed this wish to King Felipe VI on Friday, during a face-to-face meeting that is part of the protocol ahead of the prime minister’s investiture session, due in late January or early February.

At a press conference after this meeting, Iglesias said that he is ready to start working on the creation of this leftist government, whose goal would be to advance the social agenda and undo the budget cuts effected by the conservative administration of Mariano Rajoy.

Iglesias said he has asked Pedro Sánchez, the Socialist leader, for the position of deputy prime minister in an executive headed by the latter.

He added that he decided the king would be the first person to learn about his plans, out of institutional loyalty.

“We have decided to take the initiative and take a step forward,” said Iglesias. “Either you stand on the side of change or you stand on the side of stagnation and gridlock.”

During his address, Iglesias was flanked by several leading members of Podemos, including top aide Iñigo Errejón and Carolina Bescansa, who recently ran for the position of congressional speaker. These individuals, he revealed, could end up in ministerial positions if the negotiations prosper.

The anti-austerity leader said he is ready to meet with Pedro Sánchez and hammer out a list of urgent social measures for the first 100 days of government. He also wants to address Spain’s “plurinational” nature – a reference to separatist sentiment in Catalonia and the Basque Country – and reforms to voting legislation.

Back at Socialist headquarters, news of Iglesias’ ambitions were received with “surprise” and “astonishment.”

“This has caught us off guard,” said a high-placed regional official. “A Ministry of Plurinationality? That’s not going to fly with the [Socialist] Federal Committee.”

Socialist officials are also displeased with some of Iglesias’ statements following his meeting with the king, particularly the one in which he said that “the historic possibility to be prime minister now afforded Pedro Sánchez is a smile of fate that he will have to thank me for.”

One PSOE leader noted that just eight months ago, Podemos was still ruling out a joint government with the Socialists.

The inconclusive general election of December 20 yielded a hung parliament with 123 seats going to the incumbent Popular Party (PP), 90 to the PSOE and 69 to Podemos (although the latter’s congressional group now has 65 deputies after four regional associates decided to go it alone). IU has two seats.

Since then, parties have been scrambling to forge allegiances for a congressional majority of 176 seats.

English version by Susana Urra.

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