PEDRO Sánchez and his socialist PSOE party won the most seats at last Sunday’s General Election. But his 123 total leaves him short of the 176 he needs for an outright majority, which means another coalition beckons.
It seems likely that the acting Prime Minister will form a stable coalition partner with Left-wing Podemos party, who backed him up after his previous Government success. Yet there are still doubts.
On the plus side for Sánchez, the results gained by the main right-wing parties mean he has little risk of being trumped by a coalition agreement between them.
But a new Spanish Government is unlikely to emerge until June, as the parties will continue to campaign for May’s local and European elections.
With Sanchez failing to win an outright governing majority, it is still unclear whether he will seek to form a full coalition government, or try to run as a minority Socialist administration.
But as he met with his party executive to discuss their next move, Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo suggested that the socialists’ preferred option would be to govern in minority, seeking confidence and supply agreements with groups such as Podemos.
“We think we have more than enough support to be the rudder of this ship,” said Ms Calvo, while recognising the role of Podemos in pushing forward progressive policies during the 10-month-long Sánchez minority government, before the latest general election.
Sanchez’s relative freedom to decide was made possible by a catastrophic showing from Spain’s mainstream, conservative, Popular Party, which lost more than half of its parliamentary representation, falling to 66 seats.
Among the campaign pledges of Podemos is a plan to impose a special tax on banks to pay back bail-out funds, poured into the financial sector during the crisis, and the creation of a public-energy company to cut costs for consumers.
But even with Podemos support, the ruling PSOE would still find itself nine seats short of a governing majority, raising the prospect of again needing the divisive support of the Catalan parties to cross the line.
In a sign of the ongoing divisions, Spain’s electoral board on Monday ruled that Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont could not run as a candidate for Spain in European elections next month, from his self-imposed exile in Brussels.
In total, the PSOE gained nearly 7.5m votes in an election which saw a much higher participation than the summer 2016 event, taking 75.75% of the electorate, as opposed to 66.48% last time, and representing 28.68% of ballots.
The right-wing PP has plunged in popularity, the 123 seats gained in 2015 and the 137 won in 2016 under Mariano Rajoy disappearing rapidly.
The most likely path back to the Presidency for Sánchez will be to join forces with left-wing Podemos, which has gone from being Spain’s third-largest political power to fourth, dropping from 72 seats to 42.
Whatever transpires, Sánchez will have to begin talks with his likely coalition partners next month, leaving King Felipe VI, formally, to invite him to form a new government.
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