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PSOE come up with last-ditch offer in bid to avoid new elections

Source: El Pais - Tue 26th Apr 2016
PSOE come up with last-ditch offer in bid to avoid new elections

In a last-minute attempt to avert new elections in Spain, the Socialist Party (PSOE) on Tuesday accepted nearly all of the policy points contained in a document seeking the creation of a leftist governing alliance.

The party’s congressional spokesman, Antonio Hernando, said that the PSOE was ready to say yes to 27 of the 30 items presented to them by Compromís, a regional party from Valencia that wants to see a government made up of the Socialists, Podemos, United Left and themselves.

Hernando added that the new government should be headed by Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez and made up of independent members. He said that this hypothetical Cabinet would submit to a vote of confidence two years after taking office, in June 2018.

A similar “government of change” had already been suggested earlier by Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias, but his demands for Cabinet positions and his stance on a number of issues had put him at odds with Sánchez.

Instead, the PSOE entered into a preliminary governing deal with Ciudadanos, Spain’s other emerging, reform-oriented party. But their combined seats were not enough for an overall majority in Congress (176), and the project has failed to gain support from other parties.

If no deal is struck between now and May 2, the king will dissolve parliament and call new elections for June 26.

On Tuesday, Ciudadanos announced that it will not be backing this latest document introduced by Compromís, citing its vagueness on almost all the issues.

“I have seen three pages discussing how six parties are to govern for four years. I think that says it all,” said party leader Albert Rivera.

Rivera, whose party holds 40 seats in Congress, also noted that the Socialists don’t really need Ciudadanos’s support if they instead associate with the parties mentioned in the Compromís proposal. “He [Sánchez] did not need us on December 21 and he doesn’t need us now.”

But Socialist spokesman Hernando sought to counter the suggestion that his party was ready to break its agreement with Ciudadanos.

“Let’s make it clear that we are going to honor the commitments of this agreement and of the agreement signed with Ciudadanos,” he said at a press conference held inside Congress.

Hernando said he was aware that Spain’s two emerging parties are refusing to work together.

“Podemos and Ciudadanos have manifested their incompatibility,” he said. “That is why we feel that a reasonable way out is to have a Socialist government with the addition of independents in various fields.”

Hernando said that this proposal is compatible with their agreement with Ciudadanos, which would also have a place in the new administration.

While the political situation remains complicated and a new election looms large on the horizon, this new initiative by Compromís has re-opened the debate.

Pedro Sánchez had an appointment with Felipe VI later on Tuesday to discuss Spain’s political situation. The monarch is seeing 14 political leaders this week in the third and last round of contacts to determine whether there is still a chance to avoid a new vote, following the inconclusive election of December 20.

Given the latest developments, Sánchez may ask the king to wait until the last possible minute before dissolving parliament. There is a precedent in Catalonia, where three months of political gridlock following regional elections came to a head in January with a last-minute deal to elect a new regional premier that avoided fresh elections.

“We have until zero hours of next Monday to negotiate,” said Hernando. There would still be time for an investiture vote to be held between Friday and Saturday, he added.

“If Ciudadanos, Podemos and its associates, and Compromís all vote in favor of investing Pedro Sánchez with the premiership, there would be time. We have to try.”

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