Spain’s last ditch attempt to form a governement

Over the next two days, the leader of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), Pedro Sánchez, will try to convince Podemos (“We Can”) to enter a three-way coalition with Ciudadanos (“Citizens”) to join a three party coalition. He is likely to fail.

On March 3rd, there will be a vote of confidence in the administration Sánchez suggests. But, according to a poll on Sunday, 58% of Spaniards believe Spain will be returning to the polls. The most likely day for fresh elections is June the 26th.

Spain went to the polls on December 24 and has for 72 days been unable to form a coalition government. PSOE secured 90 seats coming second and Ciudadanos – a liberal party – 40 seats. That will not secure a majority for PSOE. A government needs to secure 176 seats to form a majority in parliament.

PSOE has vowed not to join forces with the Popular Party of the incumbent Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy.  Podemos in turn has rejected entering a coalition with PSOE with Ciudadanos – as they disagree on economic policy – and without an agreement for granting Catalonia a binding in-or-out referendum. Podemos branded the economic program agreed upon between PSOE and Ciudadanos an “austerity light” project; PSOE in turn has said that the program entails targeted actions for dealing with social emergencies, including a minimum level of social benefits and guaranteed water supply for poor households.

The options for Sánchez will then be three: a) to enter a grand coalition government with PP; b) to form a minority government, which will not last very long; c) to return to the polls.

Sánchez wants Pablo Inglesias of Podemos to back down and accept a three way coalition. There is little chance of that happening. Politically, it would the end of PSOE if it joined PP; Podemos would not be allowed by its regional allies to back down either in Catalonia or in its economic program. In sum, there is little room for negotiating a three-way coalition.

The main argument in favor of forming a three way coalition is public opinion pressure for institutional reform and an anti-corruption drive. Perceived corruption in PP makes it politically untouchable by either PSOE or Ciudadanos.

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