Socialists' meeting could end Spain's 10-month impasse

AP News
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Posted: Oct 21, 2016 7:32 AM

MADRID (AP) — Spain's Socialist party was preparing Friday for a crucial weekend meeting that could help end the country's political impasse by allowing the rival conservative Popular Party to form a minority government.

Two inconclusive elections since last December have left Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy in charge of a caretaker government. Rajoy's party won both elections but did not win enough seats to form a majority in Parliament.

He wants the Socialists to at least abstain from a parliamentary confidence vote this month that would avoid a third election.

The Socialists' 300-member federal committee will decide Sunday whether to let Rajoy return to power.

The party remains bitterly divided over the issue despite growing signs it may yield in the end. The split has even left it without a leader after Pedro Sanchez resigned because of the mounting pressure to abstain.

Speaking on Cadena SER radio, party deputy Jose Maria Barreda said the division was "considerably deep" but said the choice was either let the Popular party govern with a minority government or face a third election that could be potentially disastrous for the Socialists whose popularity among voters has plunged.

Balearic Island representative Francina Armengol said that allowing the Popular Party in again would represent "a historic U-turn" that would clash with the Socialists' ideology and electoral promises.

Rajoy has the support of 170 lawmakers in the 350-seat national parliament — 137 of them from his own party — but he needs other parties' votes, or abstentions, if he is to form a government. To date, no other party has been willing to back him. The Socialists have 85 seats and the abstention 11 of its deputies would be enough to get Rajoy through.

King Felipe VI begins meeting party leaders Monday in the hope he can pick one to try to form a government. If Rajoy is successful, investiture votes could then take place before the Oct. 31 deadline.