Spanish parties restart coalition talks in surprise move

26th April 2016, Comments 0 comments

Spanish parties restarted coalition negotiations on Tuesday in a surprise move just as the deadline to form a government draws to a close and fresh elections threaten.

The negotiations began after Compromis -- a small, regional grouping involved in coalition talks -- submitted a last-ditch proposal for a government which is currently being examined by other parties.

"We think there is still time and we have to try this," Antonio Hernando, spokesman for the main opposition Socialists, told reporters more than 18 weeks after inconclusive December elections resulted in a hung parliament and forced parties into coalition talks that have so far failed.

The 30-point proposal includes measures to fight corruption and poverty, and while the Socialists have accepted most of the content, other key parties have yet to comment officially.

It came as King Felipe VI prepared to wrap up consultations with various party leaders before issuing a statement later Tuesday or Wednesday expected to make clear whether there was any hope for a coalition deal, or whether fresh elections were inevitable.

Until the restart of talks on Tuesday, all bets had been on new polls, which would be held on June 26 under an official electoral timeframe.

This would mean Spaniards would cast their ballot again just six months after December's elections, which put an end to the country's traditional two-party system in a historic result as voters flocked to new groupings.

But the election left Spain in uncharted waters as the country has never had a coalition government since it returned to democracy following the death of long-time dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

- King 'surprised' -

In a press conference, Compromis lawmaker Joan Baldovi said they had elaborated the proposal on Monday afternoon and through much of the night before presenting it to the Socialists and other left-wing groupings.

"The king received it with surprise," he said.

The Socialists have been knee-deep in negotiations to try and form a government after acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whose conservative Popular Party came first in December's elections but lost its majority, gave up attempts to do so for lack of support.

Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez managed to strike a deal on a government with centrist upstart Ciudadanos -- in fourth place in the elections -- but this did not give both parties enough seats to obtain a majority in parliament for the necessary vote of confidence.

So Sanchez tried to reach an agreement with new far-left party Podemos, whose 65 parliamentary seats would have got it through, but failed -- prompting the current political paralysis.

Ciudadanos rejects many of the policies proposed by Podemos as being too radically left while Podemos, which came in third in the elections, sees Ciudadanos as too right-wing.

Both upstart parties refuse to be in a government with the other one in it.

Hernando told reporters his party agreed on 27 of the proposal's 30 points.

"We can still avoid repeating elections, that's what a majority of citizens wants," he said.

But in its proposal, Compromis wants an exclusively left-wing government, which is unlikely to be accepted by the Socialists' centrist ally Ciudadanos.

Both Ciudadanos and Podemos still had to comment officially on the proposal.


© 2016 AFP

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