Spain’s acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has announced hundreds of progressive policies intended to persuade the anti-austerity Unidas Podemos alliance to back his efforts to form a government and avoid the country’s fourth general election in as many years.
Sánchez’s Socialist party (PSOE) won the most seats in April’s general election but fell short of a majority in congress and has refused to govern in coalition with the far-left grouping.
Sánchez has instead suggested a “shared progressive programme” designed to end the standoff and win over Unidas Podemos, unveiling on Tuesday 370 policiesincluding proposals to clamp down on excessive rent rises, introduce low-emissions zones in towns and cities, and expand free public nursery education.
Speaking at the launch in Madrid, the acting prime minister called for a government built around a “shared, progressive agreement” and an openness to society.
“It’s not just because it’s the route people called for when they voted at the polls,” he said. “It’s because society is asking us to show we can overcome the political impasse that the country’s endured since 28 April and give Spain the opportunity to have a progressive government right now.”
Sánchez also took aim at the conservatives and pro-independence Catalan parties who overcame their bitter enmity to trigger the snap election by rejecting his government’s 2019 budget.
“We haven’t got to where we are today because of disagreements between progressive parties but because pro-independence and conservative parties pooled their votes to topple a progressive government,” he said.
Iglesias gave the policies a cautious welcome, telling Spanish TV that while they “sounded good”, he and his colleagues would need to study them in detail before making any decisions.
Even if Sánchez manages to win over Unidas Podemos – which is far from certain – he would still need the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left party to abstain during the investiture vote.
If the manoeuvring and horse-trading fail to yield a government by 23 September, another general election will be held on 10 November.
Although Spaniards are weary after voting in three general elections since December 2015, two recent polls suggest that a repeat poll would benefit the PSOE.
A survey for El Mundo found that the Socialists would again finish first, taking 145 of the 350 seats in congress – 22 more than they managed in April. Unidas Podemos, meanwhile, would win 40 seats, meaning that the two parties would easily secure a majority.
Another poll, for El Español, predicted that the PSOE and Unidas Podemos would take 176 seats between them.
The current impasse, however, does not bode well for a deal, and voter fatigue could cause a decrease in turnout.
Sánchez came to power in June 2018 after using a vote of no-confidence to turf the scandal-mired conservative People’s party (PP) out of office. The PP suffered its worst ever results in April’s election as its support collapsed and it lost 71 seats.
The party’s corruption woes show no sign of abating. On Monday, a judge investigating illegal political financing summoned two former PP presidents of the Madrid region – Esperanza Aguirre and Cristina Cifuentes – to answer questions over alleged corruption.
Another election could also hurt the centre-right Citizens party. The party, led by Albert Rivera, was leading the polls last year until it refused to back Sánchez’s no-confidence motion.
Its liberal credentials have also been undermined by its decision to enlist the help of the far-right Vox party to take power in Andalucía and Madrid.
El País’s poll predicts Citizens would drop from 57 seats to 34 in the event of another election, while El Español’s suggests it would lose 19 seats.
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