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ELECTION

Spain’s Podemos set to beat Socialists into second place

A far-left coalition led by anti-austerity Podemos is poised to beat Spain's long-established Socialists in upcoming elections and come in second, an influential poll showed on Thursday, confirming a trend highlighted by other surveys.

Spain's Podemos set to beat Socialists into second place
Pablo Iglesias is leading the party to become the biggest left wing force in Spain. Photo: AFP

This would mean that for the first time in modern Spanish history, the Socialist party (PSOE) would be demoted to the rank of third party in the country – replaced as the main left-wing force by upstart Podemos and its allies.

The results published by research firm CIS said that a coalition recently formed by Podemos and green-communists Izquierda Unida – as well as its far-left allies – would get 25.6 percent of the votes in the June 26th elections

The Socialist party, according to CIS, would only garner 21.2 percent, which would mean at least 10 fewer parliamentary seats than the so-called Unidos Podemos coalition and its allies.

“Four points, that's a lot,” said Belén Barreiro, a sociologist who heads up MyWord, another polling firm.

“There can be variations in the campaign but it will be very difficult for the PSOE to manage to overtake Podemos again.”

According to the CIS report, the ruling, conservative Popular Party (PP) would come first with 29.2 percent of the vote and at least 118 seats.    

The predicted result would mean that no party will get an absolute majority in parliament, as was the case in December elections. 

READ MORE: Why Spain is heading for a Groundhog day election

They will be forced back to the negotiating table – as was also the case after the last polls – but under immense pressure to reach a coalition deal this time rather than go to a third round of elections.

And the Socialists, if they come third as currently predicted, will be stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The PSOE could choose to pact with the PP, its long-standing arch-rival, or with the far-left coalition led by its other, newer arch-rival Podemos.

“If it comes third the PSOE only has two options,” a high-ranking Socialist party member told AFP on condition of anonymity.   

“Dropping a nuclear bomb on the European Union (supporting the Podemos-led coalition) or dropping it on the PSOE (supporting the PP).”

Analysts say that either way, coming third will deal a huge blow to the Socialists.

“That will… probably tear the party apart,” said Pablo Simón, politics professor at Madrid's Carlos III University.

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NATO

Spain and Mali foreign ministers speak after row over NATO remarks

Mali's Foreign Minister said Saturday he had spoken with his Spanish counterpart after a row over comments the Spaniard made about the possibility of a NATO operation in the African country.

Spain and Mali foreign ministers speak after row over NATO remarks

Mali’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop wrote in a tweet that he had spoken by phone with his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Albares about the comments, which were made in a radio interview.

“He denied the remarks and expressed his attachment to friendly relations and cooperation with Mali,” wrote Diop.

Spain moved to calm the row Saturday, a day after a day the military regime in Bamako had summoned their ambassador for an explanation.

“Spain did not ask during the NATO summit or at any other time for an intervention, mission or any action by the Alliance in Mali,” said a statement from Spain’s embassy.

The row blew up over remarks by Albares in an interview Thursday with Spain’s RNE radio. Asked if a NATO mission in Mali could be ruled out, Albares said: “No, we can’t rule it out.”

“It hasn’t been on the table at the talks in Madrid because this is a summit that is laying out, so to speak, the framework for NATO action.”

“If it were necessary and if there was to be a threat to our security, of course it would be done,” he added.

Albares was speaking on the sidelines of the NATO summit as it drew to a close in Madrid. Diop had told state broadcaster ORTM on Friday that Bamako had summoned the Spanish ambassador to lodge a strong protest over the remarks.

READ ALSO: Nato apologises after hanging Spanish flag upside down at Madrid summit

“These remarks are unacceptable, unfriendly, serious,” said Diop, because “they tend to encourage an aggression against an independent and sovereign country”.

“We have asked for explanations, a clarification of this position from the Spanish government,” he added.

At the Madrid summit, Spain pushed hard to prioritise the topic of the threat to NATO’s southern flank caused by the unrest in the Sahel — the vast territory stretching across the south of Africa’s Sahara Desert, incorporating countries such as Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Jihadist attacks there are pushing increasing numbers of people to flee north towards Europe, with Spain one of the main points of entry there.

READ ALSO: Spain’s capital ramps up security to host Nato summit

At the summit, NATO acknowledged the alliance’s strategic interest in the Middle East, north Africa and the Sahel.

Mali has since 2012 been rocked by jihadist insurgencies. Violence began in the north and then spread to the centre and to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

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