Spain PM to meet Socialist leader to discuss forming new government

23rd December 2015, Comments 0 comments

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy held talks Wednesday with the Socialist leader on forming a new government following inconclusive elections, just days after calling him a "miserable wretch".

It will be their first meeting since Sunday's general election which saw Rajoy's conservative Popular Party (PP) win 123 seats but lose its absolute majority in the 350-seat parliament.

The opposition Socialists (PSOE) won 90 seats, followed by the far-left Podemos with 69 seats and the centre-right Ciudadanos with 40.

The outcome means parliament will be made up of four main groupings with significant clout, putting an end to Spain's traditional two-party system of the PP and the Socialists and raising the prospect of weeks of political uncertainty in the eurozone's fourth largest economy.

Rajoy needs both the Socialists and Ciudadanos to abstain in a parliamentary vote on a new government in order to govern in a minority. Ciudadanos has already said it will abstain.

The meeting will serve to "see if the PSOE is ready to reach agreements and a consensus on certain issues" or if it choses "intransigence", the spokesman for the PP in the lower house of parliament, Rafael Hernando, said in a radio interview.

He denied a front page report in top-selling daily newspaper El Pais, which is close to the Socialists, which said Rajoy was ready to offer the Socialists the presidency of the assembly.

"That is not on the table," he said when asked about the report.

Talks between Rajoy and Sanchez will likely be tense after a highly acrimonious election campaign.

During the only TV debate between the two leaders last week, Sanchez accused Rajoy of not being a "decent person". The normally calm Rajoy responded with his own insult, calling Sanchez a "miserable wretch".

Just before their talks Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera called for negotiations to form a pact with the PP and the PSOE to enable a stable government.

He said the Socialists should be "responsible" and allow the PP to govern in a minority to avoid early elections and he warned it would be a mistake for the party to try to form a government with Podemos and smaller nationalist parties.

- Fresh elections -

Podemos is the only national party to back an independence referendum in the wealthy northeastern region of Catalonia and it ran in a coalition with nationalist platforms in Catalonia, Valencia on the Mediterranean coast and the northwestern region of Galicia.

"Podemos has excluded itself from the defence of the unity of Spain," Rivera said.

Podemos's number two Inigo Errejon defended the party's support for a referendum in Catalonia, saying in a TV interview that it is "a proposal for Catalonia to remain in Spain".

After holding talks with the leaders of each party that has won seats in parliament, King Felipe VI, the head of state, will nominate a prime minister -- most likely Rajoy.

The nominated leader must then win a vote of confidence in parliament in order to take office or else fresh elections will be held.

The Socialists could be accused of destabilising Spain if they are blamed for causing new elections, while joining forces with Podemos carries the risk that they will be swallowed up by the fast-growing party.

Allowing the PP to stay in power by abstaining could alienate left-wing supporters angered by austerity measures introduced by the PP.

"I think the PSOE will end up allowing the PP to govern to avoid fresh elections which would see the PP boost its score as it would recoup votes lost to Ciudadanos and to those who abstained," said political analyst Nacho Martin Blanco.

Forming a government with the PP is highly unlikely as it could see the Socialists suffer the same fate as its Greek counterpart Pasok, which saw its support plunge after it joined a coalition led by the conservative New Democracy in 2012.


© 2015 AFP

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