Spain: Govn't talks take hit as negotiating parties bicker

AP News
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Posted: Apr 08, 2016 10:34 AM

MADRID (AP) — Bickering between Spain's far-left Podemos party and the Socialists escalated Friday over the formation of a new government, leading experts to predict the country is headed to another national election.

If no government is in place by May 2, another election will be held on June 26.

Podemos' leader, Pablo Iglesias, told reporters his party's members will vote next week on whether to support or oppose a deal for the Socialists and the centrist Ciudadanos party to form a government after nearly four months of political stalemate.

He suggested he opposed a deal, saying he felt "betrayed" a day after meeting with negotiators for Socialists and Ciudadanos, who have a deal to form a government but lack parliamentary support which Podemos could deliver.

Iglesias said proposals made by Podemos for its support "were received with inflexibility" by the Socialists and Ciudadanos. That prompted Socialist spokesman Antonio Hernando to accuse Iglesias of nixing any deal and betraying voters who want an agreement.

Spaniards enraged with high unemployment, seemingly endless corruption cases and austerity ended the nation's traditional two-party system in the Dec. 20 election.

The conservative Popular Party came in first but fell far short of its 2011-2015 parliamentary majority. The Socialists came second and newcomers Podemos and Ciudadanos took third and fourth.

Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the Popular Party's leader, decided in January against trying to form a government because he lacked support. So King Felipe VI offered the task to Socialist leader Pablo Sanchez.

The Socialists and Ciudadanos could form a government with Podemos' votes, or abstentions, in the 350-seat lower house of Parliament.

One of the biggest issues threatening a deal is Podemos' commitment to allowing the northeastern Catalonia region to hold a secession referendum. The Socialists and Ciudadanos are adamantly opposed.

"The chances of a last-minute agreement are dim," said Antonio Barroso, a London-based analyst with the Eurasia Group political risk consultancy.