Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Spain edging towards Socialist-led coalition as negotiations begin

A Socialist-led coalition is shaping up to be the most likely to rule Spain as rival politicians laid down ground rules on Monday ahead of what are expected to be marathon political negotiations needed to form the country’s next government.

The conservative People’s party (PP) won 123 seats in Sunday’s election and 29% of the vote, leaving it a long way short of a majority in the 350-seat legislature. As the results came in, the party leader, Mariano Rajoy, vowed he would try to stay on as prime minister, despite a set of results that left him with few options to do so. “I will try and form a stable government,” Rajoy told cheering supporters on Sunday. “Spain needs stability, security, confidence and trust.”

But with leftwing parties holding the balance of power in Spain’s parliament, the result is likely to mirror recent political events in Portugal, where the conservatives won the October election but fell to a socialist government backed by leftist parties just days later.
Billed as Spain’s most vibrant and plural election in recent years, the vote chipped away at the country’s decades of two-party dominance and yielded a result that thrust the country into weeks – if not months – of political horse trading.

In the coming days and weeks, King Felipe VI, who took over from his embattled father last year, will reach out to all parties to hear their positions and name the party that will have the chance to try and form a government. If the candidate fails to obtain an absolute majority, followed by a simple majority in a vote of confidence, the king must put forward a new candidate. If no government is formed within two months, new elections must be held.
On Monday morning, as many in Spain waded through the potential scenarios, the Socialist party ruled out any possibility of backing the PP. “The Socialists will vote no to Rajoy. We’re going to vote no to the PP,” said César Luena, one of the party’s senior officials.

The Socialists came second in Sunday’s election, earning 90 seats and 22% of the vote. Despite a result that ranked as their worst ever, the party is now central to the question of what comes next. “Spaniards voted for change and the left and we’re going to translate that to the confidence vote,” said Luena.

Anti-austerity party Podemos, which won 69 seats and 21% of the vote, said it would also block any attempt by Rajoy to form a government. “On no account will Podemos allow the PP to govern,” the leader, Pablo Iglesias, told reporters on Monday, ruling out the possibility of even abstaining during the vote of confidence. “The PP cannot form part of the future government of this country,” said Iglesias.

By contrast, Ciudadanos’s leader, Albert Rivera, said his party would abstain from the confidence vote to allow the PP to form a minority government and urged the Socialists to do the same. “The Socialists need to show that they’re thinking more about Spain than what’s left of their party,” Rivera told Spanish media on Monday. “Spain cannot allow itself to be Greece. Spain cannot allow itself to be a chaotic country.”

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