Spanish center-right party offers way out of political limbo

Spanish center-right party offers way out of political limbo




MADRID (Reuters) – The leader of Spain’s center-right Ciudadanos party offered on Monday to break a political deadlock and avoid another election by facilitating Socialist party leader Pedro Sanchez’s investiture as premier under various conditions.

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera delivers a speech during the investiture debate at the Parliament in Madrid, Spain, July 22, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

But a Socialist party source scoffed at the surprise move by Spain’s third largest party as pre-election maneuvering.

The Socialists won an election in April without enough seats to govern on their own, illustrating how politics in the euro zone’s fourth largest economy have fragmented with the emergence of new parties.

Sanchez, 47, is the acting premier, but no major policies are going through parliament for lack of majority and the budget will roll over unless the impasse is resolved.

If the divided parliament does not confirm Sanchez as premier by Sept. 23, there will be another election on Nov. 10 – the fourth in four years – with no guarantee it would be any easier afterwards to put a government together.

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera called on conservative People’s Party (PP) leader Pablo Casado to join him in offering support for Sanchez on three conditions.

They were that the government must pledge not to increase taxes, would apply direct rule again in Catalonia if the regional government rejects an upcoming sentence in a separatist trial, and would shun a pact with Basque nationalists in Navarra.

“We offer a state solution for Spain: we will unblock the investiture if Sanchez accepts three conditions,” Rivera’s party tweeted him as saying. PP is Spain’s second largest party.

Responding to the proposal, Sanchez avoided specifically agreeing, but said there were no obstacles to his investiture because his policies already coincided with Rivera’s requests.

“ALREADY CAMPAIGNING”

His government would act if Catalan separatists did anything illegal, families’ tax burden should be relieved, and there was no pact with Basque nationalists, he told reporters.

“When one listens to Mr Rivera, there is no real obstacle for the People’s Party and Ciudadanos to abstain, which is what we’ve been asking for since April 28,” he said, referring to a potential parliamentary vote on his becoming prime minister.

One senior Socialist Party source was blunter, telling Reuters this was maneuvering by Rivera ahead of a potential vote. “They are already campaigning,” the source said.

Political analyst Pablo Simon Rivera agreed.

“This is to make Sanchez responsible for the repeat (election),” he said

Rivera had previously not shown up to a round of talks Sanchez held with other party leaders.

There was no official reaction from PP, but a source in the party said Casado was willing to talk with Rivera and Sanchez.

Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez heads to greet Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera (not pictured) at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Susana Vera

Aware of Spaniards’ weariness with elections and their leaders’ horse-trading, parties are eager to deflect blame if there is a new election. Should there be a new vote, abstention could be a major factor.

Rivera’s proposal was a surprise because any chance of a deal over the past months had focused on difficult talks between the Socialists and far-left Unidas Podemos, which both sides said had reached a dead-end.

Opinion polls have shown that Ciudadanos, whose leader Rivera had taken more of a hardline stance against Sanchez than PP’s Casado, would, alongside Podemos, lose votes in a repeat election, while PP and the Socialists would benefit.

Reporting by Emma Pinedo, Elena Rodriguez, Belen Carreno, Isla Binnie; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne






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