Spanish PM, Podemos draft deal that could serve as governing blueprint

Leftist leader Pablo Iglesias says that he sees himself as “a partner in government” after agreeing on a raft of far-reaching measures on housing, taxes, education and more

Pedro Sánchez (r) and Pablo Iglesias.
Pedro Sánchez (r) and Pablo Iglesias.Samuel Sanchez

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, and the leader of the leftist Podemos party, Pablo Iglesias, met on Thursday to discuss common goals on education, housing, taxes, foreign policy and historical memory, in what looked like a rehearsal for a potential governing agreement.

“There are good vibes, it’s a good start; if we do reach an agreement we would like to see out the term to 2020,” said Iglesias at a press conference following the two-and-a-half hour meeting.

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias

Sánchez, of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), has been heading a minority government since June 1 after leading a successful no-confidence vote against the previous prime minister, Mariano Rajoy of the conservative Popular Party (PP). He has expressed a desire to serve out the remainder of the political term, but has had trouble securing enough congressional support to pass crucial legislation such as the 2019 budget, which remains on hold. Brussels expects member states to send in their 2019 spending plans by October 15, and the approval of the budget remains a top priority for the Spanish government.

At their meeting, Sánchez and Iglesias – whose parties hold 84 and 67 seats, respectively, in the 350-member house – agreed on around 20 points that might potentially serve as a future governing agreement. “At the very least, it’s a shared roadmap,” said a government source. While Sánchez secured votes from Podemos and nationalist parties for his no-confidence motion, this one-off support has not led to governing coalitions.

Some of the shared goals include lowering taxes for the self-employed and reducing VAT on essential goods. On the education front, both leaders discussed free schoolbooks for children and a lower student-teacher ratio. Regulating the rental market is another priority at a time when the cost of renting a home has soared in cities such as Barcelona and Madrid.

There is a growing feeling that this could be the last one-party government in Spain following the decline of the two-party system

While Sánchez did not speak to the press after the meeting, sources at the executive said that he supports the agreements announced by Iglesias. The latter said that he sees himself as “a partner in government” with the goal of “co-governing together from parliament.”

“We are nearer a global agreement than we were yesterday,” said the Podemos leader. “I am optimistic and it’s a good start.”

Within the PSOE, there is a growing feeling that this could be the last one-party government in Spain following the decline of the two-party system, which was undermined during the economic crisis. The protest parties that emerged from the economic downturn – Podemos and Ciudadanos – have taken a significant chunk of voters away from both the PSOE and the PP.

English version by Susana Urra.