Spain appeared to be on course to get a new left-wing government tonight after anti-austerity Podemos announced it was willing to go into coalition with the Socialist party.
More than a month of deadlock which looked likely to lead to fresh elections was broken in a dramatic fashion by Pablo Iglesias, the Podemos leader, who told reporters that his party was willing to forge a new leftist pact. His announcement was apparently the first time the Socialists had heard of the proposal.
“This has caught us off guard,” a Socialist party official told El Pais newspaper. It will nonetheless be very tempting for the Socialist leader, Pedro Sanchez, who would become Spain’s next prime minister.
Each main party leader met separately with King Felipe today in an attempt to break the stalemate created by the inconclusive 20 December election. Mr Sanchez, who met the sovereign after the Podemos leader, dodged questions over whether he would accept Mr Iglesias’s offer. It is difficult to see an alternative, however, especially as post-election polls suggest a surge in support for Podemos after its strong showing last month, at the expense of the Socialists.
“The [Socialist party] has always taken the lead in dialogue and we will reach out to left and right to build consensus,” Mr Sanchez said. He again ruled out joining a grand coalition led by the governing centre-right PP party. Its leader, the Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, has been unable to muster enough support to form a coalition of his own.
Any Socialist-Podemos government would also need backing from the small United Left party, and a number of regional parties, to secure a parliamentary majority.
First, however, Mr Rajoy may have to suffer the indignity of losing a formal vote on his own investiture in the coming days. As leader of the largest party, convention requires that he make the first attempt to form a government. The Socialists and Podemos finished behind the PP in the election, and their alliance may face accusations that it lacks legitimacy as a government of the losers. “I told the king that democracy has its limits and procedures,” Mr Sanchez said. “It is Rajoy’s turn. The [Socialists will] vote against his investiture.”
A left-wing government in Spain, which would be likely to reject many austerity measures imposed by their predecessors at Brussels’ behest, may be viewed with suspicion by the European Union. Spain’s economy has grown impressively in recent months, but unemployment remains over 20 per cent.
Mr Iglesias has called for an end to severe public spending cuts. “We have decided to seize the initiative and take a step forward,” he said. “Either you’re for change, or for stagnation and impasse.”