MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's Socialists on Wednesday kicked off long-awaited talks to form a coalition government, a task seen as impossible unless several political parties drop some major red lines.
In a brief speech to representatives of his party, socialist chief Pedro Sanchez announced he would meet with small leftist and regional parties on Wednesday, with liberal Ciudadanos on Thursday and with anti-austerity Podemos on Friday.
He also said he had appointed a six-strong team to handle the negotiations, which will focus on four areas: creating jobs, tackling social inequalities, restoring faith in the country's institutions and giving Spain a new constitution to better accommodate Catalonia.
"Before we can discuss the 'who' we have to answer the 'what'," Sanchez said. "I want to send a message of confidence because Spain can be governed with moderation and dialogue and with progressive policies."
Given Spain's unprecedented parliamentary fragmentation, the socialists would need the backing of at least three parties to achieve a simple majority of seats while several others would have to abstain.
Not only do those parties have different - and sometimes opposed - economic manifestos but they also disagree on fundamental issues such as whether to organize an independence referendum in Catalonia.
Sanchez had said on Tuesday that he would need at least one month before he could seek the confidence of the parliament.
If he fails, other potential candidates would have a maximum of two month to try to form an alternative majority. After that, a new national election would have to be called.
(Reporting by Julien Toyer and Blanca Rodriguez; Editing by Dominic Evans)