POST-ELECTION PACTS

Acting PM says bid to form government at this stage “absurd”

On visit to Toledo Mariano Rajoy says he will tell the king the same as before: “I don’t have the votes”

Mariano Rajoy with PP politician María Dolores de Cospedal on Thursday.
Mariano Rajoy with PP politician María Dolores de Cospedal on Thursday.Bernardo Pérez

While there may technically be some time for Spain’s political parties to reach a deal to form a government, acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy appears to have ruled out any chance of that happening – at least between his Popular Party (PP) and the Socialists (PSOE).

While traveling from Madrid to El Toboso, in nearby Toledo, the politician published a tweet about the current political stalemate, in which Spain has found itself since inconclusive elections on December 20. “Pedro Sánchez can avoid the elections,” wrote Rajoy, in reference to the leader of the PSOE. “I invite him once more to work toward a great coalition government that will bring stability to Spain. M.R.”

Later, in an informal chat with journalists, the acting prime minister went further, explaining what he will say to the king when he meets with him on Tuesday, in the last round of meetings with the monarch aimed at finding a prime ministerial candidate. “I will tell him the same as always – that I don’t have the votes for the investiture.”

Rajoy has already twice turned down King Felipe VI’s invitation to try to form a government, on the basis that, although the PP got won the most seats at the elections, the party lacks the majority needed to win the first round at the investiture vote, and the simple majority needed for the second.

The closest any parties came to a deal was an agreement between the PSOE and emerging center-right party Ciudadanos, which would have seen Pedro Sánchez become prime minister. But even between them they lacked the votes they needed, and Sánchez’s bid for power failed due to a lack of support or abstentions from other parties.

The clock is now running down before new elections have to be called, most likely for June 26. But for Rajoy, the time for potential deal-making is already over.

Talking to reporters on Thursday, he said it was “absurd” to insist on the idea that he could send one last letter to Sánchez in order to repeat the offer that had been continually rejected by the PSOE since December 20. “He is not interested,” Rajoy said in reference to the Socialist chief. “I’ve been trying since December 21, but he doesn’t want to.”

The acting prime minister went on to say that an alliance between the PP and the PSOE – traditional opponents since the return of democracy to Spain in the late 1970s – “would have been the best option for Spain.”

Rajoy also criticized the PSOE’s attempt to reach a deal with Ciudadanos and left-wing anti-austerity group Podemos, which he labeled as a coalition between “radicals and extremists.”

English version by Simon Hunter.