Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Socialist Party (PSOE) chief Pedro Sánchez met on Friday in Congress as part of the ongoing negotiations in a bid to form a government after inconclusive general elections in December. But far from being a cordial affair, the 25-minute talks between the Popular Party (PP) leader and Sánchez were marked by the former ignoring the attempt at a handshake by the latter, prompting the Socialist chief to withdraw his outstretched hand.
The gesture by Rajoy came in full view of reporters and TV cameras ahead of their behind-closed-doors meeting. The brief nature of the encounter reflects the ongoing political stalemate: both of the politicians want to head the next government, although for the moment it is Sánchez who has been invited to find the support to form one by King Felipe VI.
“I am not ruling out standing at an investiture session,” said Rajoy after the meeting. The acting PM, who is only willing to negotiate with the PSOE and emerging center-right group Ciudadanos – leaving out left-wing anti-austerity party Podemos, among others – wants to form a “great coalition” between the three “pro-constitution forces,” a proposal he has been making since the day after the December 20 elections, at which the PP won most votes but fell well short of a majority.
After meeting Sánchez, Rajoy once again told reporters that a pact between the PP, the PSOE and Ciudadanos is “the best” option for Spain.
Both Rajoy and Sánchez were aware that this Friday’s meeting was not going to bring about a solution for the current political stalemate, but they used the encounter to set out their respective strategies.
English version by Simon Hunter.