Spain’s Socialist leader, Pedro Sánchez, failed to win the support of parliament to become prime minister on Friday, leaving the country with no better choice than to return to the polls.
It was Sánchez’ second and last attempt to win the legislature’s backing for a coalition government with the liberal Ciudadanos party.
On Wednesday, the far left and the conservative People’s Party of outgoing prime minister Mariano Rajoy also rejected him.
Sánchez pleaded with Pablo Iglesias’ far-left Podemos movement to help avoid a situation where “Rajoy remains at the helm of government.” He argued that the center-left pact with the Ciudadanos would the basis for a “government of change” that could rid Spain of the “poison of corruption.”
It was to no avail. Rather than abstain, which could have allowed Sánchez to take office, Podemos actively voted him down a second time.
The far-left party won 69 seats in December’s election by campaigning against a party system that has seen the conservatives and Socialists alternate in power for forty years. It incredulously considers the fellow newcomers of the Ciudadanos part of the establishment, however, because they advocate liberal economic policies.
Podemos, by contrast, has proposed nationalizing major industries and restructuring Spain’s public debt.
Although King Felipe VI could ask another party leader to try to form a government, new elections are seen as more likely.
Polls suggest the People’s Party, which has some high-profile members under investigation for corruption, could lose votes to the Ciudadanos while the Socialists and Podemos, the two main parties on the left, would roughly retain the support they have now.
That could change if leftwingers blame one or the other for this week’s failure.
When he started out in January, Sánchez said “voters would not understand that Pablo Iglesias and I would not manage to find an understanding.” The latter had called for an all-left pact at the time, even though such an alliance with smaller parties on the left could not have found a majority either without the Ciudadanos.
Many Socialist Party bigwigs rejected a coalition with Podemos out of hand, worrying about the damage it could do to their own credibility and that of Spain.