• Spain's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Socialist chief faces uphill battle in bid to lead Spain
Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez. Photo: Pierre-Philippe Marcou / AFP.

Socialist chief faces uphill battle in bid to lead Spain

AFP · 1 Mar 2016, 09:04

Published: 01 Mar 2016 09:04 GMT+01:00
Updated: 01 Mar 2016 09:04 GMT+01:00

The parliamentary session is a key step towards trying to unblock nearly 11 weeks of political stalemate since inconclusive December elections resulted in a hung parliament divided among four main parties - none of which won enough seats to govern alone.

Designated by the king as prime ministerial candidate after acting conservative leader Mariano Rajoy pulled out, Sanchez has raced to put together a coalition government before the session, which will spill into Wednesday when the vote of confidence takes place.

"We tried to unblock the situation and at the same time forge a government of change," Sanchez said on Monday.

But barring any unexpected changes of heart, Sanchez only has the support of centrist upstart Ciudadanos and the tiny regional Canaries' Coalition, giving him just 131 votes in the 350-strong lower house - not enough to see him through.

If he fails, Spain will be plunged into uncharted territory. 

It would be the first time since the country returned to democracy following the death of dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975 that the candidate designated by the king did not get enough backing from parliament to form a government.

A two-month countdown will then start from the beginning of the week, during which the wildly diverging parties will try once again to come to an agreement to govern Spain.

Failing that, new elections will be called in June - an issue of concern at what right-wing daily El Mundo calls "the worst political time for Spain in three decades".

Unions and business leaders have urged political leaders to reach a deal for a stable government quickly as Spain emerges from a severe economic crisis, and also faces an independence threat in the northeastern region of Catalonia.

But that is easier said than done.

End to two-party system

The December 20th elections saw the ruling, conservative Popular Party (PP) lose its absolute majority, and two upstarts - Ciudadanos and anti-austerity Podemos -- put an end to Spain's long-running two-party system.

Hailed as a major step forward for democracy, the initial euphoria quickly evaporated when it became apparent that parties with differing agendas - and unused to compromise - were going to struggle to work together for a coalition government.

Rajoy gave up attempts to form a government after he failed to get support from other groupings fed up with years of crisis-sparked austerity and corruption scandals plaguing his grouping.

So King Felipe VI asked runner-up Sanchez, whose Socialists scored their worst result in history with just 90 seats out of 350, to form a government.

After weeks of negotiations and ping-pong televised statements, he sealed a deal last week with Ciudadanos, which came fourth in the elections with 40 seats.

Story continues below…

But anti-austerity Podemos, which with its 65 seats would be a valuable partner for Sanchez, immediately suspended talks with the Socialists over the agreement, which it considered too liberal.

The PP meanwhile has said it will vote against any government it does not lead this week.

Sanchez, with his 131 assured votes, could still go through if Podemos and other smaller groupings abstain from casting their ballot - a move they have however rejected.

Podemos voters "are divided on this issue", sociologist Jose Pablo Ferrandiz of polling firm Metroscopia told AFP.

The party may be interested in allowing the Socialists to govern with Ciudadanos while it "gains protagonism in parliament in the opposition" with eyes on the next election, Fernando Vallespin, political scientist at the Autonomous University of Madrid, told AFP.

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Recipe: How to make Spain's summer classic gazpacho
Gazpacho is the perfect lunchtime refresher in the summer heat. Photo: Harlan Harris / Flickr

Chilled, refreshing, and delicious, a bowl of gazpacho is a must during Spain's sizzling summer months.

Model found guilty of murder of Brit millionaire ex-boyfriend
Mayka Kukucova with British businessman Andrew Bush. Photo: Facebook

A Slovakian swimwear model has been found guilty for murdering her British millionaire ex-boyfriend at a court in Malaga.

Spanish bishop demands staff get 'anti-paedo certificate'
Stock photo of priests: AFP

The Bishop of Lleida has requested all staff, including priests and monks, prove they are not paedophiles.

Beach hogger fined in Spain for saving spot with umbrella
Tourists at a Spanish beach. Photo: Jaime Reina/AFP.

Attempting to 'reserve' a spot on the beach of one Costa Blanca resort is being treated very harshly indeed.

Superfast undersea mega-cable to link US and Spain
It will be 16 million times faster than a domestic broadband connection. Photo: Oleg Zaytsev / Flickr

Your internet access is about to get a whole lot faster.

Travel chaos looms as Easyjet workers call strike in Malaga
Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP

Thousands of holidaymakers could be affected by the strike...

Spanish capital gripped by Champions League fever
Real Madrid fans. Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP

Madrid's two biggest teams will face off against each other in Saturday's Champions League final.

Colombia blames guerrillas for missing journalists
Demonstrators called for the release of Spanish journalist Salud Hernandez Mora in Bogota this week. Photo: Guillermo Legaria/AFP

The Red Cross has joined the search for three journalists missing in Colombia whose disappearance the government blamed on a leftist rebel group.

'Magical mystery tours' among top Spanish startups to watch
Rome is one of the possible secret destinations. Photo: Moyan Brenn/Flickr

A company that organizes surprise trips for people who don’t find out where they are going until 48 hours before departure could be one of Spain’s most interesting new startups.

Franco finally stripped of mayor title by Catalan town
Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. Photo: AFP

Better late than never...

National
Stunning cave paintings found 300 metres below Spain
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
Travel
Five good reasons why Extremadura should be on your bucket list
Lifestyle
Top Ten: Barcelona's coolest rooftop bars
National
Plane forced to dodge THREE drones to land in Bilbao
National
Spain launches campaign to stop English 'invasion'
Culture
Ten unique Basque words you need to learn right now
National
'It’s time to dig up Franco' say victims of Spain's dictatorship
Lifestyle
'Severe jellyfish stings' end Brit's Spanish swim feat
Sport
5 reasons why Spanish clubs dominate European football
International
Tesco to bring British tea and biscuits to Spanish stores
Culture
Bucket list: 16 brilliant things to do once in your life in Spain
National
Spain's Civil War victims to be exhumed from Franco's tomb
National
Two mums face jail for leaving kids in car to go out drinking
Education
Students at Spanish college forced to take exorcism class
National
Ten superb reasons why you need to visit San Sebastián
Society
Abused wife saved by hiding SOS note in son's homework
National
Look up! Rare meteor shower set to dazzle skies over Spain
Politics
Why Spain is heading for a Groundhog day election
Travel
Ibiza bans drinking in street… and that includes water
National
Expats didn't 'abandon' UK so ALL Brits should get EU vote
Features
What's on in Spain: May 2016
Travel
Discover Spain's breathtaking national parks
National
Couple caught on camera having sex on metro platform
3,387
jobs available