September 3, 2019 / 9:36 AM / 12 days ago

New Spanish election likely as Socialists, Podemos at odds - sources

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s far-left Unidas Podemos party dismissed the Socialists’ latest offer for a deal to form a government on Tuesday, further increasing the likelihood of another election in November after an inconclusive vote in April.

FILE PHOTO: Spain's acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez greets Unidas Podemos' (Together We Can) leader Pablo Iglesias at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Juan Medina/File Photo

The two parties have regularly been at odds as the Socialists try to put together a government, but time is now running out: if there is no government by Sept. 23, a repeat election will be held on Nov. 10.

Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez, who has been acting prime minister since his party won April’s vote without enough seats to govern without the support of other parties, came up with a new offer on Tuesday.

While ruling out a coalition government with Podemos on the grounds there are too many disagreements, he said the two parties could agree on policies, with non-cabinet positions for Podemos.

“There is no reason to be enemies”, Sanchez told party members, unions and NGOs in a speech, adding, “It’s possible to be loyal allies as we’ve been in the past”.

Podemos backed the previous Socialist government last year without being part of it.

However, Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias said a coalition government was the only option.

“Politics cannot be based on trust, but on guarantees. A coalition government is the only guarantee to carry out the policies that can change people’s lives,” Iglesias tweeted.

Negotiators from the two parties will meet on Thursday, but while publicly they say they want a deal, sources in both said they had little hope for one.

“We’re heading to elections, there’s no doubt,” a senior Podemos source told Reuters. “The PSOE’s (Socialist’s party)approach is aimed at humiliating us.”

‘PRESSURE PODEMOS’

A Socialist party source had said earlier that the party saw a 30% chance of a government deal and 70% chance of a repeat election, adding: “But we’re working on the 30%”.

“The idea with the document is on the one hand to pressure Podemos so that it feels the need to change its position and support Sanchez; and if not, we have already paved the ground for the electoral campaign,” the source said, referring to the fresh proposal.

Sanchez’s latest offer went less far than one he proposed in July - which included a deputy prime minister post and three ministries for Podemos - and which the latter had rejected.

Sanchez “is going back to the starting point with his proposal,” said Pablo Simon, a political professor at the Carlos III university. “The tracks are set for a repeat election.”

In his speech, Sanchez stressed the mistrust between the two parties, showing how hard it would be to reach any deal.

Sanchez said however he still aimed to seek a deal, as he presented over 300 policy proposals in a last-ditch effort to secure allies to form a government.

The proposals include reforms in the areas of labour, pensions, real estate and the environment that could appeal to Podemos. They include a goal to produce 85% of Spain’s energy from renewable energy sources by 2040, which was part of Podemos’ platform.

Slideshow (3 Images)

Sanchez also offered to set up mechanisms to ensure any deal with Podemos on policies was respected.

But the senior Podemos source said that while the party would look into it, at first glance that did not seem enough, even on the policy front.

“There are interesting things,” the source said. “But we’re a bit tired of reading the same things (from the Socialists) for the past four years.”

Reporting by Belen Carreno, Joan Faus, Emma Pinedo, Jesus Aguado; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by John Stonestreet and Frances Kerry

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