Spain on cusp of forming new government

Spain’s interim prime minister may end an eight-month legislative stalemate today. His party is considering an offer of support for a new government, in exchange for political reforms.

Spain on cusp of forming new government

Centrist party Ciudadanos proposed the six-point reform package — aimed at fighting corruption and making the voting system more proportional — to the Conservative People’s Party (PP) and its leader, Mariano Rajoy, last week.

An endorsement by the PP, which won national elections in June, but fell short of a majority, would open the way to Ciudadanos, which translates as ‘Citizens’ backing Mr Rajoy — the acting premier — as head of a new government in a parliamentary investiture vote.

The June ballot followed an equally inconclusive one in December, also won by the PP, since when parties across the political spectrum have held fruitless negotiations on forming a workable coalition government.

Leaders of the PP will meet today, and are expected to endorse the Ciudadanos plan, even though it would involve launching a parliamentary investigation into an alleged PP slush fund.

In Madrid, the PP made similar pledges to Ciudadanos, to be able to govern locally, after regional elections in May, 2015. “What’s important, now, is to form a [national] government,” Madrid region leader Cristina Cifuentes told fellow PP campaigners last week.

In the December election, Ciudadanos and a second newcomer party, leftist Podemos (‘We Can’), broke the traditional dominance of Spain’s centre-left Socialists and centre-right PP, which have ruled Spain in single-party governments since the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975.

The formula of a coalition government remains untested after eight months of political deadlock, and Ciudadanos — which finished fourth in June — has ruled out entering one now.

But together, it and the PP hold 169 seats, just short of a majority in the 350-strong lower parliamentary house.

The need for a viable government is becoming more urgent as Spain must soon prepare a budget for 2017, to keep on track an economic recovery that has weathered the political uncertainty.

Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez has repeatedly said that his party would oppose Mr Rajoy as prime minister. But if Ciudadanos back Mr Rajoy, it would pile pressure on the Socialists.

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