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Spain's Socialist Leader Fails in Effort to Become Prime Minister

Spain's Parliament on Wednesday handed a defeat to the leader of the Socialist party in the first round of his long-shot attempt to become the country's next prime minister.

Even though the party leader, Pedro Sánchez, will get another opportunity on Friday, when Parliament will hold a second round of voting, the result is likely to be the same. In turn, that would then raise significantly the likelihood of new elections in June to help break the deadlock among four main parties — the outcome of the last election just a few months ago.

Mr. Sánchez won 130 votes on Wednesday, short of the 176 votes that he needed to form a majority coalition. His votes came from lawmakers from his own Socialist party, as well as those of Ciudadanos, or Citizens, a center-right party that recently reached a coalition deal with Mr. Sánchez.

But conservative lawmakers from the Popular Party of Mariano Rajoy, the incumbent prime minister, as well as those from the left-wing Podemos Party, led the voting against Mr. Sánchez.

Mr. Sánchez faced long odds because his appointment relied on being able to bridge divisions between two emerging parties that have vowed not to work together. Citizens and Podemos are at odds not only over economic policies but also the future of independence-minded Catalonia. Citizens, a party that originated in Catalonia, is fiercely opposed to secession from Spain, while Podemos has pledged to hold an independence referendum in the region.

Mr. Sánchez also tried to convince Podemos at least to abstain from voting by arguing that not doing so would help keep Mr. Rajoy and his Popular Party in power and thus extend some of the austerity and labor policies that Podemos has violently opposed. Podemos risked becoming "the lifesaver of the Popular Party," Mr. Sánchez told lawmakers.

But Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos, instead attacked Mr. Sánchez for striking a bargain with Ciudadanos rather than trying to form a left-wing coalition.

He said the deal with Ciudadanos was "made for measure for oligarchs," rather than aimed at helping the disenfranchised, whose votes helped Podemos become Spain's third-largest party.

After December's inconclusive parliamentary elections, Mr. Sánchez took center stage when Mr. Rajoy unexpectedly turned down an offer from King Felipe VI to try to form a new government, saying that he lacked the support.

While Mr. Rajoy could yet be given another chance, he is also under pressure to make way for a new leader that could help renovate a conservative party entangled in major corruption scandals.

Should Mr. Sánchez get turned down again on Friday, the king will have two more months to give another opportunity to Mr. Sánchez, Mr. Rajoy or another party leader before concluding that only fresh elections can break the impasse.

[Source: By Raphael Minder, The New York Times, Madrid, 02Mar16]

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small logoThis document has been published on 04May16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.