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Spain’s conservative opposition has been given its first opportunity to try to form a government by the king after an inconclusive general election, although the party did not have enough support at the time of Tuesday’s announcement.
The opposition People’s Party, led by Alberto Núñez Figo, won the most seats in the July elections, but neither it nor acting Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez produced a clear path to a parliamentary majority.
Sanchez, who has pledged to lead another “progressive” government, says he is the only person who can secure the 176-seat majority needed in the 350-seat parliament to take office. And he wants to do this by striking deals with five smaller regional parties – including the Catalan and Basque separatists – as well as SOMMAR, a left-wing group that is his preferred coalition partner.
Earlier on Tuesday, Sanchez said he would respect the king’s decision, but added: “I think everyone knows, even Mr. Figo himself, that it would be a failed inauguration vote” if the PP leader tries to become prime minister.
And if Figo does not succeed after King Felipe VI’s decision, Sanchez will be given an opportunity to form a government after two months. If he fails, Spain will be forced to hold repeat elections, as it did in 2015-2016 and 2019.
Sanchez scored an important victory last week when the parties he flirted with backed his pick for congressional speaker last week by 178 votes. His potential partner’s most difficult vote included Together for Catalonia, a radical separatist group founded by exiled former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont.
But the royal palace indicated that Sanchez had not yet secured the support of the smaller parties for another term in office.
The palace said in a statement following two days of talks between the king and political leaders: “In the consultation procedures he conducted [the king]It has not been proven that there is at present a sufficient majority for this position [of a new prime minister]. “
As a result, he added, there is no reason to abandon the custom of allowing the party with the largest number of seats in parliament to make the first attempt to form a government.
An ally of Sanchez played down the palace’s comment, saying formal negotiations between Sanchez’s socialists and other parties had yet to begin.
Figo, who portrayed Sanchez as dishonest on the campaign trail and vowed to reverse his policies, thanked the king for the mandate and said he would try to give a voice to the Spanish people who voted for “change, stability and moderation”.
But he does not appear to be able to get more than 172 parliamentary votes, including 137 for his own party, those for the hard-right Vox party and the single vote for two provincial parties. The People’s Party’s alliance with Vox, which staunchly opposes separatism, means that pro-independence parties in Catalonia and the Basque Country have ruled out any agreement with it.
An official in Somar said: “Mr. Figo is leading all Spanish citizens into a position that everyone knows will fail. This installation will not be about Spain’s problems, but about Figo’s problems.”
The official said Sumar would continue to work with Sanchez’s Socialists “on the only possible path: a progressive government with a multinational sensibility.”
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