Podemos members reject backing Socialist-led govt in Spain

18th April 2016, Comments 0 comments

Spain's far-left party said Monday its members had voted massively against backing a coalition government between the Socialists and new centrist party Ciudadanos, boosting the likelihood of fresh elections.

Of the roughly 149,000 party members who took part in the April 14-16 internal referendum, 88.23 percent opposed supporting such a government, the party said in a statement.

The vast majority, 91.79 percent, backed a "government of change" made up of the Socialists, Podemos and several small regional parties, the statement added.

The party plebiscite follows a December 20 general election that resulted in a hung parliament, with power divided among four main groupings, none of which has enough seats to govern alone.

The polls put an end to Spain's traditional two-party system as voters fed up with austerity, unemployment and corruption scandals decamped to new parties like Podemos and Ciudadanos.

But the parties have not been able to agree on the formation of a government. They have until May 2 to find a power-sharing agreement, and if they fail fresh elections will be held on June 26.

"The results are clear and the popular mandate will guide the next steps," deputy Podemos leader Inigo Errejon tweeted.

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias called the referendum in early April after three-way talks between his party, the Socialists and Ciudadanos broke down less than 24 hours after they began.

Analysts said the party leadership wanted an endorsement of its position to shield itself from criticism if Spain was forced to repeat the election in June, as looks increasingly likely.

"We did all that we can do," the lead negotiator for the Socialists, Antonio Hernando, told reporters after the result of the vote was announced.

"The ball is in the court of other parties... What is certain is that 100 percent of Podemos voters do not want Mariano Rajoy to remain at the helm of the government," he added.

- 'Grand coalition' -

Acting Prime Minister Rajoy's conservative Popular Party (PP) won the most votes in the election but lost its absolute majority in parliament.

He turned down a bid to form a government due to a lack of support from other parties.

Rajoy has urged a "grand coalition" made up of the PP, the Socialists who came in second place, and Ciudadanos which came fourth, but this option has consistently been rejected by Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez.

"We are going to keep until the last day our proposal for a grand coalition," PP official Fernando Martinez-Maillo told a news conference after Podemos announced its referendum results.

The possibility of a grand coalition involving the Socialists seems extremely remote, as the PP's image has been tainted by a series of corruption scandals and Sanchez has been highly critical of Rajoy.

Spain's King Felipe VI will next week hold a third and final round of talks with party leaders in a last-ditch bid to get them to form a coalition and avoid fresh elections.

Polls show fresh elections would once again produce a hung parliament with power divided along the same lines as during the December polls.

© 2016 AFP

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