Spain looks set for new election as last-ditch talks stall

Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez arrives to visit a flooded town of Orihuela, Spain, September 14, 2019. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

Politicians and sources on all sides on Tuesday cast doubt on the chances of breaking five months of deadlock since an inconclusive election before next Monday’s deadline.

Spain is on course to hold its fourth election in four years as a deadline approaches for forming a new government without any sign of agreement.

If there is no breakthrough, a new election will be held on Nov. 10. Although the economy has not suffered greatly, economic analysts say further delays in implementing reforms in areas such as labour and pensions could finally start to bite.

Spain, which has the fourth largest economy in the European Union’s euro currency zone, has been in political limbo since Pedro Sanchez’s Socialists emerged as the biggest party in April’s election but failed to secure a parliamentary majority.

Party leaders have spent more time publicly blaming each other for the impasse than negotiating, and a flurry of last-minute calls and initiatives failed to achieve a breakthrough.

“It’s meant to show that they tried until the end,” a source close to the talks said.

CIUDADANOS PROPOSAL

The centre-right Ciudadanos party offered on Monday to help Sanchez secure parliament’s confirmation as prime minister if certain conditions were met, but Sanchez said his party was already meeting the conditions.

Ciudadanos accused him of lying in his response and said it could back him only if he complied with all their demands.

“His response … is a joke on all Spaniards. I’m asking him to rectify, to go back to constitutionality and allow to unblock Spain,” Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera wrote on Twitter.

Opinion polls show a new election might not end the impasse, with the Socialists still unable to win enough seats in the 350-seat parliament to secure a majority on their own.

The conservative People’s Party (PP), which was second in April’s election, said it would vote against Sanchez.

All the main party leaders met or were due to meet King Felipe VI on Tuesday and were expected to tell him whether they would back Sanchez’s bid to become premier.

Pablo Iglesias, leader of far-left Unidas Podemos, reaffirmed after meeting the king that he would support Sanchez’s confirmation only if he agrees to a coalition government. The Socialists have ruled out a coalition government with Podemos.

Iglesias said it would be “reasonable” for King Felipe to allow more time for talks but EFE news agency cited sources close to the king saying there would be no delay.

Aware of voters’ weariness with repeated elections, the rival political leaders have been trying to deflect any blame for the need to hold a new ballot.