Socialist-Podemos government in Spain looks more likely but talks remain difficult

In Madrid tonight talks are continuing between the left wing Podemos party and the centre left Socialist party (PSOE) on forming what would be the first coalition government in Spain’s recent history.

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias stated today that they will not accept “decorative” cabinet posts in exchange for support for the acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez:

“Respect our voters and do not offer to us being a mere decoration in your government, because we will not accept it.

This follows an acceptance by Pablo Iglesias the Podemos leader that he would not seek a post in a new Cabinet – a condition laid down by Sanchez due to the fact that Iglesias supports a referendum on Catalan independence. Sánchez said that

I can’t have someone in government who doesn’t trust me and who doesn’t respect Spanish democracy because they insist on the Catalan right to self-determination and the existence of political prisoners.

By yielding to Sánchez’s demand Podemos strategists believe they now have leverage to push for important cabinet positions including a deputy Prime Minister position and a key economic post.

Speaking in the Spanish Parliament today Iglesias called on the Socialists to give Podemos government representation that corresponds to their share of the vote in the April election.

What might the new government’s priorities be? According to the Financial Times :

Mr Sánchez focused his governing proposal on six areas that have been central under his leadership, including better jobs, greening the economy, feminism and closer European integration. He also made several specific policy proposals, such as creating low-emission zones in all towns with more than 50,000 residents, raising education spending to 5 per cent of gross domestic product and increasing the minimum wage again after a 22 per cent rise this year.

The Podemos leader outlined that his party wants to take action against unfair taxation, job insecurity and high power and rental bills. Iglesias is adamant that his party will not go into government without a fair deal :

We are a modest and young political force but we’re not going to be trodden down by anyone.

On Tuesday the Parliament will vote on Sánchez’s bid to form a government and he will need an absolute majority of at least 176 votes – which he will not get.

On Thursday there will be a second vote in which he needs to secure a simple majority. Between them the two prospective coalition partners have 165 seats (PSOE : 123 Podemos : 42). They will need support or abstentions from others including the Basque Nationalist Party and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya to win the vote.

The support/abstention of the Catalans is far from guaranteed. If a breakthrough isn’t made then a return to the polls before Christmas becomes a strong possibility.

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