Socialist leader to negotiate with Podemos if Rajoy’s PM bid fails

Pedro Sánchez says Popular Party chief must be given first chance to govern

Miquel Alberola
King Felipe VI met with Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez on Friday.
King Felipe VI met with Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez on Friday.EFE

Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez on Friday thanked Podemos head Pablo Iglesias for his “offer” to form a joint coalition.

Sánchez has been courting Podemos and other leftist groups in order to build an alternative government to the Popular Party, which won the most seats at the December 20 general election but not enough for an absolute majority (176).

On Friday morning, after meeting with King Felipe VI as part of the protocol before the investiture session, Iglesias said he was willing to join a “government of change” in which he himself would be the deputy prime minister.

Pedro Sánchez: “We might agree on the diagnosis, but policy is another story”

Sánchez said he learned about this proposal from the monarch himself, who met him after seeing Iglesias.

But the Socialist leader did not immediately jump on the offer, and said that acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, of the PP, must first bid for reinstatement at a session that will likely be held in late January or early February. Only then would he begin negotiations and sit down with Podemos and other parties.

“We have to be scrupulous and careful about timings,” said Sánchez, who will not vote for Rajoy despite the latter’s call for a grand coalition between both traditional rivals.

The incumbent’s all-but-certain defeat will force Congress to hold a run-off vote in which another candidate to the prime minister’s office could step up.

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Sánchez is expected to be this candidate if he manages to assemble several political groups to coalesce into a “progressive alliance” or, as Iglesias put it, a “government of change.”

But on Friday Sánchez reacted cautiously to Iglesias’s extended hand.

“We might agree on the diagnosis, but policy is another story,” he said, adding that “voters would not understand it if the Podemos leader and myself did not get along.”

Sánchez also talked about the need for major agreements “with Podemos, Ciudadanos and other groups,” and said his party would strive to reach cross-party deals on eight essential national issues, including an economic recovery that is fair for all, democratic regeneration, education and constitutional reform.

Other Socialist officials have reacted with skepticism to Podemos’s offer. Some have expressed displeasure at Iglesias’s assertion 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.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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