Spain’s Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) on Saturday accused anti-austerity party Podemos of “blackmail” as the nation grapples with an unprecedented political impasse after inconclusive elections.
The statement from the PSOE came as outgoing conservative Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who on Friday abandoned his own attempts to form a new administration, warned the party that they risked giving Podemos the whip hand in a new government coalition.
The nation has been in political limbo since a general election in December last year, which produced a hung parliament with no easy way of forming a ruling coalition.
Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party (PP) won the most seats, but fell short of an absolute majority.
Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias on Friday said his party hoped to form an alliance with the Socialists and the United Left, a green-communist grouping, as well as land the post of deputy premier and key ministries.
However, the Socialists said they would “not enter into negotiations with other political forces to try to find alternatives to a stable government, especially when they are proposed through blackmail and by giving partisan interests priority over the citizens.’”
In a thinly veiled criticism of Podemos, the Socialists said that “in order to build a new national project,” talks on “policies and specific ideas” must be held — not on “tactics, partisan interests or unilaterally imposed [decisions].”
The Socialists added that it would continue to talk to all parties to “evaluate the situation.”
PSOE leader Pedro Sanchez said on Twitter on Saturday that he had spoken with Alberto Rivera, head of center-right party Ciudadanos, and that they would “stay in touch in the coming days.”
The Socialists also hit out at Rajoy.
“Rajoy has a constitutional duty ... either to submit his candidacy or to give it up definitively,” the statement said.
Earlier on Saturday, Rajoy had warned the Socialists against accepting Podemos’ offer of working together.
“The government which Pedro Sanchez is desperately seeking would be beholden to Podemos and humiliated by them,” he said, adding that his offer to form an alliance with the Socialists and Ciudadanos still stood.
“This pact has not been possible for the time being as Sanchez has refused to talk... He talked to everyone bar the PP,” Rajoy said, adding that the PP needed multiparty backing having failed to obtain an absolute majority.
The PP won 119 seats in the December poll, leaving it well shy of an absolute majority in the 350-seat parliament. Rajoy urged a “grand coalition” of the PP, the Socialists who came in second place with 89 seats, and new center-right party Ciudadanos, which took 40 seats.
“There is an alternative — a government formed by the Socialists, Podemos, the United Left and all the pro-independence [regional] parties,” Rajoy said. “They will do great harm to our country and will be unable to govern as we have a majority in the [Spanish] Senate.”
He said that “radical and extremist economic policies can lead the country to ruin,” but vowed the PP would use its absolute Senate majority to “guarantee such wrong-headedness does not come to pass” and “preserve Spanish unity.”
A left-wing coalition government would need the support of tiny Catalan and Basque nationalist parties to survive a confidence vote in the event that Ciudadanos swings behind the PP.
A Socialist Party source on Saturday said: “Pedro Sanchez and Pablo Iglesias will meet and talk — a hand has been held out,” while not giving a date.
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