HOW many votes does it take to fix a country? Spain is fast on the way to finding out an answer as the prospect of a third general election looms large over the body politic.
While the Popular Party claimed victory in June’s second election, in reality the result was much the same as the first and, when acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy met his PSOE nemesis Pedro Sanchez on Wednesday, it became clear that very little else has changed.
Rajoy has publicly stated his desire to see a new executive in place by August and the resort to a third election as an “absurdity” but the key message delivered to him by Sanchez during their 80 minute meeting was that all 85 PSOE representatives will vote against him should he seek to form a government.
“To this day, the PSOE reaffirms that it will vote against Mr Rajoy. He knows that he cannot count on the PSOE for a grand coalition government or to negotiate a legislative program. The PSOE will do exactly the same thing the PP did when it voted against my investiture.” Sanchez told pres after their negotiations.
“I reminded him that he no longer has an absolute majority and that he must read the election outcome fully: the PP is the first force in terms of seats, but Spaniards did not give him a large enough majority to govern with just his own program.”
Some among the Socialist leadership are voicing opinions that the PSOE should simply abstain from an investiture vote on a Rajoy government thus allowing the PP to wield minority power while avoiding technical complicity.
That prospect doesn’t sit well with Sanchez or the country’s broader left-wing and separatist movements who are encouraging the PSOE to take the initiative and make serious building efforts at constructing a loose left-leaning coalition that could command a parliamentary majority.
“Sanchez must choose between Rajoy, a leftist alternative or third elections” said Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias. His leadership of the Unidos Podemos alliance has been questioned after poorer than expected results but the coalition still controls a hefty 71 seats.
An understanding between Podemos and the PSOE would see the erstwhile rivals for the heart of the left combine 156 seats, 19 more than the PP and 20 shy of the magic majority.
Sanchez though still harbours bitterness over the way his own attempt at forming a government was voted down by Podemos earlier this year. “There are those who blocked a progressive government of change at the time, but now they are going around giving others lessons,” he said in response to Iglesias’ overtures.
Meanwhile both Catalan and Basque nationalist parties have stressed the importance of avoiding a third election, even reducing their own idiosyncratic policies and demands in order to accommodate stability.
Convergencia, who advocate Catalan independence, have said that a referendum is no longer a prerequisite for their support of a leftist coalition, while the Basque Nationalist Party suggested new elections would make mud of Spain’s international image and called on Sanchez to either accept Rajoy or aggressively promote a viable alternative.
Ciudadanos, the other main emergent party who secured 32 seats, are closer ideologically to the PP but oppose Rajoy personally. It is understood that they would now abstain in a confidence vote in Rajoy rather than actively against him as they too seek a less damaging outcome than triple elections and a full year without government.