Spanish King Asks Whether It’s Election Time Again for Sanchez

Thomas Gualtieri and Rodrigo Orihuela

(Bloomberg) -- Spanish King Felipe VI is set to hold talks with political parties in a final attempt to gauge whether Socialist Pedro Sanchez has enough support to stay on as prime minister, averting the fourth general election in four years.

The head of state will meet with 15 party leaders from Monday and on Tuesday will decide whether there is a candidate able to win a parliamentary vote and form a government. If not, he will dissolve the parliament, paving the way for an election on Nov. 10.

Months of talks between the Socialists and the anti-establishment group Podemos have led nowhere, leaving politics in the euro area’s fourth-biggest economy deadlocked after Sanchez failed to form a government in July. Podemos, whose backing in parliament is essential for Sanchez, had conditioned its support on being granted cabinet posts under a coalition agreement.

Spain has become increasingly ungovernable over the last four years as corruption scandals and the Catalan independence crisis have caused political allegiances to splinter. Failure to form a government would pitch the country into further uncertainty as it faces the challenge of further unrest in Catalonia and the impact of a potentially hard Brexit, as well as the increased likelihood of a euro-area recession.

Sanchez rejected on Thursday Podemos’ latest proposal of forming a trial coalition to rule together until the approval of the country’s budget. After the refusal, Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias said his party would abstain on a confidence vote if Sanchez doesn’t change his stance.

Although the acting prime minister initially signaled he was willing to offer Podemos some ministerial posts, he later backtracked, arguing that a lack of trust made a formal partnership impossible.

Political Risk

Early elections could be a risky bet. Although polls have recently shown an increase in Socialist support, right-wing parties may reach an absolute majority if the frustration for having missed an opportunity to govern keeps leftist voters away from the polls, according to an NC Report survey published by La Razon newspaper.

Even if the Socialists boost their parliamentary seats from 123 to less than the 176 needed for a majority, Sanchez is betting he will emerge with a stronger hand in negotiating support from other parties.

Spain has been drifting politically since 2015 when former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the conservative People’s Party lost his majority. Sanchez took power last year when he ousted Rajoy in a no-confidence motion backed by Podemos and other groups including Catalan separatist parties.

What’s next

Sept. 16: King Felipe meets eight party leaders, starting with smaller partiesSept. 17: Felipe holds seven more meetings, including with Sanchez and Iglesias. He plans to decide the same day whether any candidate could be elected prime ministerParliament must elect a prime minister by Sept. 24 if the king gives the green lightIf the king decides there is no suitable candidate or if parliament fails to elect a premier by Sept. 23, Felipe dissolves parliament and calls new elections

To contact the reporters on this story: Thomas Gualtieri in Madrid at tgualtieri@bloomberg.net;Rodrigo Orihuela in Madrid at rorihuela@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Charles Penty at cpenty@bloomberg.net, ;Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Sara Marley, Tony Czuczka

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