Spain Heads For Snap Vote Again After Coalition Talks Break Over Left Camp Feud, Catalonia

Spain Heads for Snap Vote Again After Coalition Talks Break Over Left Camp Feud, Catalonia

After months of coalition talks following the April election, the acting Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, has failed to win the required support from both the left and right of the political spectrum, with the divided kingdom now heading for another snap vote, the fourth in four years

BRUSSELS (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 19th September, 2019) After months of coalition talks following the April election, the acting Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, has failed to win the required support from both the left and right of the political spectrum, with the divided kingdom now heading for another snap vote, the fourth in four years.

On Tuesday, King Felipe VI, after consultations with Sanchez and other parliamentary leaders, decided that he would not be proposing a candidate for another investiture vote.

That same day, Sanchez confirmed that an early general election would be held on November 10. He also blamed opposition parties for derailing his parliamentary approval as prime minister.

Sanchez's Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) won the April election but fell short of an outright majority. Fresh opinion polls indicate that the situation will likely repeat itself in November, with the Socialists projected to emerge victorious from the vote but without an absolute majority.


After the inconclusive April election, Sanchez was in talks with the leftist Podemos party, as well as the conservative Popular Party (PP) and the center-right Citizens. Neither of the contacts yielded results.

The talks with the Podemos party, which was considered to be the most likely coalition partner, were on-and-off until the last moment.

First, Sanchez offered three ministerial seats and a deputy presidency to Podemos, but the proposal was rejected. Later, he backtracked on his offer and ruled out a coalition with this leftist and anti-austerity party, but came up with a program composed of some 370 social and economic policy proposals in a bid to secure Podemos' support for his minority government in parliament. Podemos, however, insisted that it would only agree to a coalition government.

Apart from differences over ministerial posts and the Catalan issue, a personal enmity between Sanchez and Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias reportedly further contributed to the collapse of the talks.

As soon as the Socialist prime minister announced his failure, Iglesias stated: "Pedro Sanchez had a mandate to form a government. But he didn't want to. Arrogance and disdain for the basic rules of parliamentary democracy have come before common sense."


According to the Spanish legislation, a candidate for premiership needs the absolute majority of parliament votes in the first round or, if failing to get it, a simple majority in a second round.

Even if the PSOE (123 seats) had managed to agree on a coalition deal with Podemos (35 seats), they would still be short of 10 seats to reach a majority. This means they would need the support of smaller left-wing parties such as pro-independence Republican Left of Catalonia (15 seats) and Together for Catalonia (7 seats), as well as the Basque Nationalist Party (6 seats).

In Sanchez's last effort to get the investiture in July, which he lost, the Republican Left of Catalonia supported him. Though Podemos abstained, a coalition of the Left, which would include Podemos and Catalan parties, could have been the first possible option that would win the cabinet a working majority in the 350-seat parliament.

Another possibility for Sanchez was to form a coalition with the center-right Citizens party (57 seats), which would have given Sanchez the comfortable majority of 180 seats.

In an unexpected move on Monday, Citizens leader Albert Rivera offered to abstain at a potential investiture vote, which would have helped Sanchez get a simple majority in the second round, albeit putting forward three conditions.

In exchange for the move, he demanded guarantees that the government will refrain from raising taxes; reapply direct rule in Catalonia if the regional government refuses to accept the sentences for jailed independence leaders in October; and stop governing the region of Navarre jointly with Basque nationalist party Bildu.

The price was too high for Sanchez to pay for Citizens' external support.


According to Hermann Tertsch, a European Parliament member from the right-wing VOX party, the "situation is very fluid and there might be serious shifts in the electorate" in the days before the November vote. A left coalition would, however, have catastrophic consequences for Spain, he argued.

"You have the Socialists of the Prime Minister, ready for a 'Popular front' [the name for the left-wing coalition that came to power in Spain in 1936], an alliance between Left, extreme Left, communists and the separatists in Catalonia and the Basque regions. Their alliance and victory would be a disaster. They would destroy Spain," Tertsch told Sputnik.

Tertsch, a former journalist for El Pais and Telemadrid, downplayed disagreements between Podemos and the Socialists, attributing them mainly to personal tensions between the two leaders.

"They disagree now, but it is a highly personal thing, between Pedro Sanchez and the head of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias. Sanchez is arrogant in the negotiation and wants everything for nothing, but he is genuinely afraid of Iglesias in a future coalition," he claimed.

There is still a "great danger of a 'Popular Front' as we had in Spain in 1936," according to the lawmaker. He, however, expressed hope that VOX would be "on the rise again" and an "alliance on the Right" would come as an alternative.

Speaking about Catalonia, Tertsch said that his right-wing VOX party wanted that the court, who is set to deliver a ruling on jailed leaders of the 2017 independence referendum in October, would sentence the organizers of the "coup" to 30 years in prison.

He, at the same time, did not rule out that Sanchez could make certain concessions to pro-independence supporters ahead of the election.

"Pedro Sanchez is ready for anything and the decisions he could take to protect the separatists, very soon, at the end of the trial, to get their electoral support, would be difficult to reverse," he opined.


Josep-Maria Terricabras, a former European Parliament member for the Republican Left of Catalonia and professor of philosophy in Barcelona, does not understand the logic behind Sanchez's actions.

He predicts that "the election campaign will be very hard" with many abstentions among the left electorate as people are "fed up" with the country holding the fourth election in four years.

"I don't understand the psychology of the Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez. You don't need to be a specialist in politics to decipher is actions, but a political psychiatrist! Impossible to understand him. He managed to insult and antagonize all the politicians in the parties with whom he was discussing," Terricabras told Sputnik.

According to Terricabras, Sanchez rejected a coalition with Podemos partly because businesses do not want this leftist party in government due to its "extremism." The acting prime minister could have also allied then with the Citizens, but he "made it impossible" too, according to the professor.

Addressing the upcoming ruling on jailed Catalan politicians, Terricabras expressed concerns that sentences would be "heavy." He also claimed that Sanchez's rhetoric showed a "collusion with the judges." The prime minister is, meanwhile, notably accused by the right of not being tough enough on the Catalan issue.

"If the sentences are heavy, there will be massive demonstrations in Barcelona. The injustice of the situation is evident to most Europeans, who understand the Catalan cause. Catalans did not rebel against the state. Their protest was peaceful," Terricabras warned.

Given all that, he suggested that after November 10, Spain will "remain in the blocked situation that we are in now."

A Basque nationalist member of the European Parliament, Izaskun Bilbao Barandica, similarly believes that Sanchez just "did not want" to form a coalition government.

She also suggested that Spain should move away from the traditional "system of rotation for the two big parties in power and accept that the rules of play have changed," and "agreements among different political parties will be necessary to govern."

"The political map will probably not change and after these new elections, the winner will have to start negotiations without the same roadmap. For the negotiators, it is an unhappy end of their own making," Izaskun Bilbao told Sputnik, agreeing with the previous expert.

The lawmaker also attacked the Citizens party, which had demanded that Sanchez take a tougher stance on Catalan and Basque independence movements in exchange for support of his government.

"Albert Rivera, is a slave of marketing, a person with no experience as a negotiator and with a deep ignorance of many of the things he talks about, for example, the tax system of the Basque country. He is a slogan reciter, not a politician," she argued.

Her region is, meanwhile, interested in the "Basque agenda" and a "long list of matters that have to be fixed in order to fulfill the Basque Statute."

"We want a new relationship with the Spanish State based on recognition and bilateralism," she added.

Echoing Catalan and Basque colleagues, Manu Pineda, a European Parliament member of United Left, one of the parties of the Podemos coalition, believes Sanchez was "in a position" to form a left government with the Podemos coalition, but did not want to.

"The PSOE asked in the electoral campaign the votes of the people of the left to avoid a right-wing government and then, after the elections, has requested the support of the right, the PP and especially Citizens (Ciudadanos), to prevent the left represented by Podemos to enter government," Pineda told Sputnik.

According to the lawmaker, Sanchez has "played all or nothing," demanding "our unconditional and unreserved support" for him for "being who he is" and "his access to the Presidency of the Government," even though he won the April election with the "worst election result of the current Spanish democracy."

Pineda yet refused to project snap election results, saying that Sanchez called the previous vote in April because polls promised good results back then. But the outcome turned out to be worse than he expected.

The lawmaker went on to note that "the only option that guaranteed a left-wing government at the service of the social majority is that of Podemos."

"We have a solid popular support that we will defend without doubts: the interests of working families, the limitation of rents, the nationalization of power companies, the repeal of the two labor reforms that have impoverished workers, we will continue to work for quality and public health and education, for responsible and sustainable consumption," he said.

The opinion that the acting prime minister "decided to go for the elections" though "coalitions were possible" was also shared by Javier Nart, an independent European Parliament member for Barcelona who left the Citizens party earlier in September after it reaffirmed its veto on facilitating Sachez's investiture.

In a comment to Sputnik, he expressed his regret that this political feud in Spain came as Europe needed unity more than ever, with "the European parliament having a large populist group." Traditional political parties, however, still "look at the world as they did in 1990," according to the lawmaker.