Socialists: Spain closer to new gov’t than fresh elections

MADRID (AP) — Spain’s Socialist party said Wednesday it is closer to forming a government and averting fresh elections following its meeting with the far-left Podemos party.

The Socialists, who won 90 seats in the 350-seat parliament in inconclusive Dec. 20 elections, are struggling to win support to form a government and end the four-year stint in power of the conservative Popular Party.

They have already made a deal with the business-friendly Ciudadanos party, which won 40 seats, but also need the backing of Podemos, which controls 69 seats.

Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez said that in his two-hour talk with Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias both agreed they want to avoid fresh elections but also oust the Popular Party government of acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Rajoy*s party won the most seats — 123 — but failed to retain its 2011-2015 parliamentary majority and cannot find anyone to back its bid to stay in office.

To date, Podemos has refused to back Sanchez unless he breaks with Ciudadanos, which it views as being too far right. But Sanchez said Iglesias had dropped that demand. So far, Ciudadanos has rejected deals including Podemos.

Earlier, Iglesias said he was prepared to drop another demand — to be given the No. 2 government job — so as to permit a government deal. He said the job of deputy prime minister could go to someone else from Podemos.

If a government is not formed by April 29, fresh elections will be called for June 26.

Podemos and Ciudadanos are new to parliament, both having benefited from widespread voter outrage over Spain’s 21 percent unemployment rate and austerity measures invoked by the Popular Party.


Associated Press writer Alan Clendenning in Madrid contributed to this report.