Spain's Socialists near coalition deal with Ciudadano

24th February 2016, Comments 0 comments

Spain's Socialist Party on Wednesday looked a step closer to forming a coalition government after talks with liberal Ciudadanos, as they seek to end weeks of political deadlock.

Spain has been in political limbo since an inconclusive election in December left a hung parliament split among four main parties, none of which has enough seats to govern alone.

The Socialists are racing against time to win enough support from other parties to form a minority government while avoiding a risky alliance with anti-austerity party Podemos.

A deal would be an important boost for party leader Pedro Sanchez as he seeks enough support to make him the head of the government in a vote of confidence in parliament next week.

Even with Ciudadanos, however, Sanchez would still only have some 130 votes out of 350 and so has been pressing other groups such as Podemos to back him or abstain.

Sanchez accepted Ciudadanos's demands for major land and judicial reforms intended to "regenerate democracy," including changing the constitution to lift parliamentary immunity for lawmakers.

"When there is a will to change you look for a deal," said Sanchez. "There will be an agreement... we say yes."

Ciudadanos number two, Jose Manuel Villegas, described it as "the beginning of an agreement between Ciudadanos and the Socialist Party".

The two parties are still negotiating over fiscal policy, public debt and separatism at a time when politicians in the wealthy Catalonia region are pushing to succeed.

Podemos, with its 65 seats, is a key player given that the Popular Party, which lost its overall majority in December, has said it will vote against any government it does not lead.

"This is not a government agreement, nor a nomination, because the numbers are simply not enough," Podemos chief Pablo Iglesias said on Tuesday evening.

"The country is still a long way from having a new government and a new head of government."


© 2016 AFP

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