© Reuters. Spain’s Socialist leader and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, accompanied by his wife Begona Gomez, applauds as he addresses his supporters during the general elections in Madrid, Spain, July 23, 2023. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Written by Joan Foss and Belen Carino
BARCELONA/MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s conservative People’s Party has begun talks with other parties to get their support to lead a new government, while the ruling Socialist Party said it wanted to avoid a re-ballot after Sunday’s election resulted in a hung parliament.
People’s Party leader Alberto Nunez Figo hailed an “indisputable” victory in Sunday’s election despite the right’s failure to win an expected outright majority.
The People’s Party and the far-right Vox party, which have both been described as potential coalition partners, took 169 seats in the 350-seat lower house, short of the 176 needed to secure a parliamentary majority. It can only form a government with the support of other minor parties.
“The talks have begun taking into account that the Spaniards have decided not to give anyone an absolute majority,” Figo said, adding: “We will not be held hostage by anyone.”
The ruling Socialists and the far left Somar won 153 seats – a better-than-expected performance.
Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has more options to form a government and is expected to seek support from small Basque and Catalan separatist parties, as he did after the 2019 elections.
Among them is the left-wing separatist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), which has seven seats. It is also likely that Sanchez will need the support of the more hawkish Gonz, who he has not supported in the past four years and also holds seven seats.
The People’s Party will take the first stab at trying to muster enough votes in parliament to form a government. But a deal with Vox and its hardline stance on separatism will make it difficult to get support from any other faction.
The Union Popular of Navarre (UPN) – which has one seat – is the only other center-right party expected to support Figo’s bid for the premiership, leaving him six votes away.
The Canary Regional Alliance, which also has one legislator, governs the Canary Islands with the People’s Party but has publicly rejected Fox’s speech.
The remaining parties expressed their opposition to any coalition that includes the far right.
Sanchez’s chances of success could be determined by former Catalan regional government chief Carles Puigdemont, who has been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium since leading a failed bid to split Catalonia from Spain in 2017.
If Sánchez can secure the five seats from the Basque Nationalist Party, six from Bieldo and seven from the ERC, as he did in 2020, Junts abstention would still be enough for his PSOE-Sumar coalition to win an inauguration vote.
Gones General Secretary Jordi Turol said on Monday that he would take advantage of the “window of opportunity” created by the electoral impasse to achieve Catalan independence.
Turol was among nine imprisoned Catalan separatist leaders pardoned by Sanchez in 2021 for their role in the 2017 independence bid. However, many more still face trial, chief among them Puigdemont.
Puigdemont, who still wields significant influence within Juntes, said in mid-July that the party would not support Sanchez. Early Monday, he tweeted that Junts is a party that keeps its word.
Puigdemont was stripped of the immunity he enjoyed as a member of the European Parliament earlier this month, paving the way for his extradition. On Monday, Spain’s public prosecutor re-issued an arrest warrant against Puigdemont. The public prosecutor’s office said he could face between 6 and 12 years in prison for embezzlement.
A source in the Socialist Party said the party was confident of reaching an agreement, but that negotiations would take time.
“We are confident of that and there will be no repeat (of the elections),” the source said.
Soumar’s deputy, Jaume Asens, has already begun talks with Guntes on behalf of the platform, a party source said.
As elections approached, the People’s Party seemed poised to form a successful alliance with Vox – an outcome that would have brought hard-line nationalists into government for the first time since the end of Franco’s dictatorship and Spain’s return to democracy in the 1970s.
This impasse leaves the country in a bind. Eurointelligence said in a note that if neither bloc is able to muster enough parliamentary support to form a government, a second election is likely around Christmas time.
Another SWP source said the party would leave the People’s Party to make its first attempt to form a government.
“No rush, let Figo do what he wants to do,” the source said. The next step is to go on vacation.