MADRID – Spain’s acting prime minister Pedro Sanchez appealed on Monday to progressive parties in the country’s parliament to keep in him office with a speech that set out the Socialist Party’s proposed government agenda and drew a line between his colleagues and those on the conservative benches.
Kicking off a process that could last several days, Sanchez requested that lawmakers act responsibly and with “generosity” to ensure the country did not fall to political deadlock, a familiar situation in recent years with the emergence of several parties breaking up the hitherto dominance of the traditional center-left and center-right.
“I’m proposing that Spain should have a government, and an opposition, and that Spain does not become deadlocked. Most of all because the world does not stop,” Sanchez told MPs in Spain’s lower house, the Congress of Deputies.
Although the Socialist Party (PSOE) took the most votes in the April 28 snap election and overturned the majority held by its chief adversary, the conservative Popular Party, it failed to land an absolute majority, taking 123 seats in the 350-seat hemicycle.
For that reason, Sanchez needs the support of the left-wing Unidas Podemos (“United We Can,” in English, feminized in the original Spanish form) as well as the abstention of pro-independence parties from Catalonia, to edge him over the finish line.
Ongoing negotiations with the grassroots party have not been smooth-sailing, with PSOE requesting UP’s leader Pablo Iglesias renounce any bid to land a ministerial position. He did so.
In his two-hour-long speech to lawmakers, Sanchez did not once mention a coalition government in name and only addressed the Unidas Podemos benches in his closing remarks.
He said: “Nothing worth the effort it easy, and what we have ahead of us is really worth the effort.
“Many people have shown support for us bringing our forces together, but beyond that, our sensitivity, intelligence and experience to improve the lives of the people and the history of Spain. We must heed that call.”
A first vote is expected on Tuesday, although if he fails to shore up a majority, which is likely, another vote will be held at the end of the week.
Sanchez said the electorate had made clear their desire for the next Spanish government to take on a progressive and forward-thinking approach when they went to the polls on April 28, in which, he said, they had rejected the “backward” politics offer by the country’s right-wing.
He hoped the message from voters would also encourage the country’s center-right parties, Ciudadanos (“Citizens,” in English) and the PP, to move away from far-right newcomers Vox. The trio have made several political deals to take power at local and regional levels in Spain.
The 47-year-old listed six major challenges facing the country, spanning dignified work and pensions; high unemployment; the digital revolution and the issues a rapidly modernizing world throws up; the climate crisis; gender inequality; social inequality and safeguarding the European Union.
The acting PM said he wanted Spain to become a reference point for feminism. His last PSOE government was ground-breaking as it became the first cabinet in the world to appoint a cabinet with almost two-thirds women.
“We should reject with all our might any attempts to banalize the violence that half of the population suffers for the fact they are a woman,” he said in a thinly-veiled message to Vox.
The ultra-nationalist Vox has pushed for gender violence laws to be renamed “inter-family laws.”
On the domestic front, Sanchez reiterated his plans to exhume late right-wing military dictator Francisco Franco from his grandiose mausoleum in the Madrid mountains, saying it was inconsistent with the principles of a democratic nation.
He also warned the PP and Ciudadanos that a project to limit emissions in the capital would not be lifted.
Sanchez first became prime minister in early June 2018 on the back of a no-confidence motion against his predecessor Mariano Rajoy following a slew of corruption scandals in the PP.
He was forced to call elections when right-wing parties and Catalan separatists blocked his State Budget.