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Spanish PM Sanchez loses confidence vote, raising prospect of new elections (The Daily Telegraph)

Spain slipped onto a path towards a fourth general election in as many years on Thursday after its acting prime minister Pedro Sánchez failed to secure the parliamentary support he needed to form a new government.

Mr Sánchez’s Socialist Party (PSOE), which won a snap poll in April but fell substantially short of a majority, was engaged in a back and forth with further-left Unidas Podemos over a possible coalition until hours before the decisive confidence vote in Congress.

With the parties opposed on which ministerial posts should be granted to the potential junior partner led by former communist Pablo Iglesias, Unidas Podemos abstained, whilst the conservative People’s Party (PP), liberal Ciudadanos and far-right Vox voted against Mr. Sánchez.

The caretaker head of government, who swept to power in June 2018 through a confidence vote aided by Unidas Podemos, has two months to regain its backing for a coalition or another minority administration, or Spain will return to the ballot boxes in November.

“I am very sorry to see that parliament remains blocked,” Mr Sánchez told MPs as he opened the plenary debate, before accusing Mr Iglesias of demanding disproportionate influence over policy and spending and “wanting to enter government in order to control the government.”

Meanwhile, Unidas Podemos maintained that it “does not want to enter government at any price” and said that it has made several concessions, including Mr Iglesias agreeing not to take a seat in the executive.

Since no other party permutation could realistically produce a majority in parliament, Mr Sánchez can now request that the King nominate him for a second round of voting in September. A repeat of the process, however, is expected to take place under a changed set of circumstances.

“This vote does not necessarily rule out the prospect of a coalition,” said Juan Rodríguez Teruel, a politics professor at the University of Valencia. “In fact, the chances of a deal at this stage were always low because they have not had much time to negotiate.”

Whilst David Cameron and Nick Clegg took five days to thrash out a coalition deal in May 2010, by September, Spain – the only major European country not to have been run by a formal coalition since the Second World War – will have been waiting at least five months for a left-wing alliance.

Unidas Podemos ­– itself a coalition formed by Podemos and Izquierda Unida, amongst other leftist groups – is believed to be divided over whether to prioritise principles or pragmatism in future dialogue.

There is also concern that the political climate in the autumn may not be ripe for compromise, particularly given the souring of relations between PSOE and Unidas Podemos following the breakdown in talks.

“The opinion polls over the next few days will not necessarily help renew dialogue,” Professor Teruel said. “They will show a decline in support for Unidas Podemos and Ciudadanos, which will act as incentives for PSOE and PP to be even more hardline on their current positions.

“In reality, the only way there could be a deal in September would be if Podemos accepts a lesser position, with less influence than they would like,” he added. “If Podemos cannot enter or even support a government under those conditions, we are headed for another election.”

Published by The Daily Telegraph.

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