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Podemos scuttles hopes for tripartite coalition in Spain

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Podemos scuttles hopes for tripartite coalition in Spain
Pablo Iglesias has closed the door on three-way pact. Photo: Pierre-Philippe Marcou / AFP
14:42 CEST+02:00
Spain's Socialists accused the far-left Podemos party of scuttling the formation of a coalition government with centrist upstart Ciudadanos, increasing the likelihood of fresh elections in June.

Socialist spokesman Antonio Hernando said Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias had "closed the door on the change that millions of Spaniards hoped for," less than 24 hours after the three groups held their first coalition talks since the inconclusive December election.

He was speaking after Iglesias urged his party members to reject a government programme agreed by the Socialists and Ciudadanos when Podemos holds an internal referendum on April 14-16th.

"We have noted with surprise and indignation that Iglesias never intended" to reach an agreement, Hernando added.   

Negotiators from the three parties -- which have a total of 199 lawmakers in the 350-seat parliament --  met for two hours for the first time on Thursday to try to end more than three months of political stalemate.

Unless parties can agree on a power-sharing agreement by May 2nd, fresh polls will be called  on June 26th.

The December poll put an end to the traditional two-party system as voters fed up with austerity, unemployment and corruption scandals flocked to new parties, leaving a hung parliament divided among four main groupings, none of them with enough seats to govern alone.

The Socialists and Ciudadanos signed a pact in February setting out 200 common policy positions.

But that only gives them a total of 130 seats - far from enough to push a government through the necessary parliamentary vote of confidence, which requires a simple majority.

They need the support of Podemos and its allies, which came third in the election with 69 seats, giving it considerable sway in coalition negotiations.   

But Podemos, which is close to Greece's ruling Syriza, objects to the Socialists' pact with Ciudadanos, finding many of the measures to be too economically liberal.

During the three-way talks on Thursday Podemos presented a 20-point plan which includes social measures such as a guaranteed income for families below the poverty line.

After the meeting Hernando said the Socialists would study "with sincerity" the plan put forward by Podemos but Iglesias said both the Socialists and Ciudadanos said "no to everything".

"Our proposals were met with immobility and I can say that we left the meeting very disappointed," he added.   

Iglesias said Podemos party members will be asked if they want to support a Socialists and Ciudadanos-led government or if they back a "government of change" made up mainly of the Socialists and Podemos.

Iglesias hinted he would step down as leader of Podemos if party members voted to back a government with the Socialists and Ciudadamos, saying he would assume his "responsibilities" if this happened.

The December poll put an end to the traditional two-party system as voters fed up with austerity, unemployment and corruption scandals flocked to new parties, leaving a hung parliament divided among four main groupings, none of them with enough seats to govern alone.

The Socialists were tasked with forming a government after acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy - whose conservative Popular Party came first in elections with 123 parliamentary seats - gave up attempts to do so due to lack of support from other groupings.

By Daniel Silva / AFP

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