Ciudadanos and PSOE sign deal hoping to win cross-party support

Podemos rejects the agreement: “The Socialists’ choice is incompatible with us”

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Pedro Sánchez and Albert Rivera in Congress on Wednesday. (AP)

Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez and Ciudadanos head Albert Rivera on Wednesday signed a wide-ranging policy agreement that they hope will win the support of other political forces and pave the way for a government led by Sánchez.

“For me it is an honor to be part of this agreement with Albert Rivera and Ciudadanos, and I hope to have the honor of sharing it with other political forces,” Sánchez said.

“For me it is an honor to be part of this agreement, and I hope to have the honor of sharing it with other political forces”

Pedro Sánchez

Podemos, which has said the pact goes against its party platform on many issues, immediately canceled a meeting it had scheduled with the Socialists (PSOE), Compromís and the United Left (IU) groups scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Between now and next week, Sánchez and his PSOE team will try to convince the other parties with whom they have been negotiating to vote in favor of his candidacy.

Iñigo Errejón, the number two official in Podemos, said the “choice of the PSOE is incompatible with us.”

“What they have presented today is an agreement written with the Popular Party in mind,” he said.

Rivera, who made a major U-turn earlier Wednesday by announcing that he would be supporting the PSOE leader's bid to become prime minister next week, is particularly hoping to attract the backing of the conservative Popular Party (PP), which won the December 20 elections with 123 seats.

Until now, Rivera had insisted that he would abstain from voting to install Sánchez as prime minister next week and would not support an administration of which he was not directly a part.

But on Wednesday, invoking the cross-party pacts that helped lead Spain from dictatorship to democracy in the late 1970s, Rivera told journalists: “The institutions of the state have to do what is already the norm out in the real world.”

He called on the PP to back the more than 200 measures agreed upon by Ciudadanos and the Socialists, either by directly supporting Sánchez’s bid to become prime minister or at least by abstaining during the vote.

“We cannot do all this alone. We need more parties,” he said in reference to the 130 seats the two parties have between them, which fall short of the majority they need to govern in the 350-seat house.

“The problem is not the numbers, it is the lack of generosity and the willingness to talk”

Albert Rivera

“The problem is not the numbers, it is the lack of generosity and the willingness to talk. There is no political will. I invite all parties to join this new transition,” said Rivera.

Earlier, Podemos – the third political force – called the PSOE-Ciudadanos pact “ineffective” and said it went against the party’s own platform on the economy and the push for a referendum on Catalan independence.

“It is part of a spectacle that Spaniards are tired of seeing,” said Sergio Pascual, Podemos organization secretary.

Ciudadanos leader Rivera announced that he did not rule out joining a Socialist-led administration, something that until now he has said he would not do. “The deal includes 80 percent of our program,” he said.

Ciudadanos will send a copy of the program it has hammered out with the Socialists to the PP, although its leader, acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, has repeatedly ruled out supporting Sánchez’s efforts to form a government and will only negotiate with other parties on the basis of a coalition led by the PP.

“Some have described this as little more than a bar-room deal or an advertisement”

Mariano Rajoy

Speaking on Spanish radio on Wednesday morning, Rajoy dismissed the deal between Ciudadanos and the Socialists as a campaign stunt ahead of the general election that will have to take place on June 26 if no government is formed.

“Some have described this as little more than a bar-room deal or an advertisement. I’m not going to discuss such things, and will simply say that it is not enough for an investiture or to form a government,” Rajoy said.

The program inked between Sánchez and Rivera, which covers labor market reform, taxes, regional administration, abortion rights, religious education in schools, and energy policy, will bind the two parties should Sánchez fail in his bid to form a government and a new election has to be held.

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