As deadline for new election looms, Spain’s PM reaches out to Podemos

Pedro Sánchez today launched 370 policy points, many aimed at persuading the anti-austerity group to vote in favor of a minority Socialist Party administration

Acting Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez on Tuesday.
Acting Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez on Tuesday.Uly Martín

Acting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has presented a series of 370 policy pledges to try to convince Unidas Podemos to back his bid to be voted back into office. What’s more he has offered the leader of the left-wing anti-austerity party, Pablo Iglesias, “a rigorous system of control” to ensure that a potential government headed by his Socialist Party (PSOE) sticks to any governing deal.

Spain has been in political limbo since the April 28 elections, at which the PSOE won most votes but fell short of an absolute majority. Negotiations were put on hold until the results of the May 26 regional, local and European elections came in. But despite months of subsequent talks, Sánchez was unable to secure the essential support of Iglesias ahead of a first round of investiture votes in July, given the insistence of the latter politician on the creation of a coalition government, something that the PSOE refused given their differences on policy.

Pedro Sánchez described his offer as a “triple guarantee” for Unidas Podemos

Sánchez also today offered Unidas Podemos – which itself is a coalition of the party founded by Iglesias and the United Left (IU) – “key responsibilities” in state institutions that are not subordinated to the Cabinet. He also called on the parties’ negotiating teams to meet on September 5. Another meeting between Sánchez and Iglesias has yet to be confirmed, but it could take place sometime next week.

Sánchez described the offer as a “triple guarantee” for Podemos, given that it includes an office connected to the Finance Ministry that would ensure that any governing deal is respected; monitoring committees in both Congress and the Senate; and a third guarantee mechanism in which members of civil society would participate. “We don’t want votes at our investiture for free,” Sánchez said of what he described in an interview with EL PAÍS published this past weekend as a “third way” forward, somewhere between the coalition government that Podemos has been demanding, and the PSOE minority government that the acting prime minister is pushing for.

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias in Congress last week.
Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias in Congress last week.Victor J Blanco (GTRES)

“If the problem with Unidas Podemos is mistrust, let’s build trust and establish maximum guarantees,” Sánchez told a crowd of 700 people today at a presentation of the 370 measures. “Our attitude is sincere, we must not become enemies. We can be loyal allies as we have been in the past.”

Hours before Sánchez took to the stage, during an interview on state broadcaster TVE, Iglesias repeated his demand for Unidas Podemos to be given ministries in exchange for support for the PSOE. But the acting PM today repeated his view that this would be “unworkable” and “unfeasible” after the failure of the investiture vote in July, before which Iglesias had been offered one of the two deputy prime ministerial roles in the Cabinet, and three ministries.

Hours before Sánchez took to the stage, Iglesias repeated his demand for Unidas Podemos to be given ministries

“On July 25 the deal became impossible,” Sánchez said on Tuesday. “What was then unworkable continues to be unworkable. We reached a never-before-seen scenario, one that no one in our country had reached before, but the proposal was rejected and our suspicions were confirmed that this would be two governments in one, a compartmentalized and divided government at a time of major challenges that could become risks,” he said, in reference to the economic slowdown, a potential “hard Brexit,” whereby the United Kingdom crashes out of the European Union on October 31 without a deal, and the crisis in Catalonia, where a sentence is expected this fall in the trial of the politicians at the center of the 2017 independence drive.

The policy points announced today by the PSOE include the reversal of labor reforms implemented by the conservative PP, constitutional protection for pension rises, and tax hikes for higher earners and large companies in order to pay for a wide range of social measures.

Some of the other plans include measures to combat “abusive” rent rises, a roll-out of a free daycare system across the country, “low-emission zones” similar to the Madrid Central scheme in cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants, and a tightening of sexual assault laws to ensure that if a women “does not specifically say yes, everything else is a no.”

Speaking on TVE this morning, Iglesias said he would take his time to study the proposal. “Some of the measures sound good,” he said on Tuesday, but would not be drawn on a more complete response until his party got the chance to study the whole document.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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