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Pact with Ciudadanos revives divisions within the Socialist Party

PP leader Mariano Rajoy turns down center-right group chief Rivera’s request for a meeting

Pedro Sánchez in an image from a video addressed to Socialist Party members.

The pact agreed this week between Pedro Sánchez and Albert Rivera, the respective leaders of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and the center-right Ciudadanos grouping, aimed at creating a minority government has raised hackles within the PSOE and been dismissed outright by the ruling Popular Party.

Among the measures within the pact that have most angered some sectors of the PSOE are proposals to streamline local and regional administration by doing away with provincial authorities, the bodies that govern Spain’s 50 provinces, and play a role in the administration of municipal activities, particularly in rural areas. The pact suggests replacing them with councils made up of mayors of small communities.

“You will understand that, as the Popular Party won the most votes, it would be difficult to explain that I am supporting somebody who did not win”

PP leader Mariano Rajoy

The regional leaders of traditional Socialist power bases such as Andalusia, Aragón, Galicia, and Extremadura – where links are particularly strong between provincial representation and the PSOE’s power apparatus – have criticized the plans, although the feeling in the Socialist Party leadership is that the proposals are being used as a way to attack the agreement itself.

The Ciudadanos-PSOE pact is to be put to the vote by the Socialist Party’s grassroots on Friday and Saturday. The PSOE’s central committee will then vote on it on Monday. In any event, eliminating the provincial authorities would require a change to the Constitution, requiring a vote in Congress.

Meanwhile, Popular Party (PP) leader Mariano Rajoy has formally turned down a written request by Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera to support the bid by Sánchez to become prime minister.

Rivera wrote to Rajoy asking for a meeting to discuss the pact between the two parties, along with what he called “common points” between the three groups. “I am convinced that the more than 200 reforms included in the agreement reflect the main demands of Spanish society,” said Rivera in the letter.

The left-wing Podemos grouping has already said it will not support Rivera and Sánchez

Rajoy, who has made it clear in recent weeks that he would not support Sánchez’s efforts to form a government, dismissed Rivera’s request in a written response, saying: “A phone call would have sufficed.”

The PP leader added: “You will understand that, as the Popular Party won the most votes in Spain, it would be difficult for me to explain to my party’s voters [...] that I am supporting somebody who did not win and intends to overthrow everything my government has done and replace it with the PSOE’s program.”

The PP leader went on to say in his letter that if Rivera failed to win the support of the leftist grouping Podemos at next week’s vote in Congress to install Sánchez as prime minister, he would be happy to talk to Rivera about creating a PP-led coalition government.

The left-wing Podemos grouping has already said it will not support Rivera and Sánchez.

“Ciudadanos said they were center right and now they are using those votes to put a Socialist in power”

PP secretary general María Dolores Cospedal

Rivera has also been warned by the PP that he is playing high-stakes politics: if he fails to win support and new elections are called for June 26, many of those who voted for him in December may well turn their backs on Ciudadanos and return to the PP.

“They said they were center right and now they are using those votes to put a Socialist in power; the Socialist who has won the fewest votes of anybody in the history of the PSOE. They are the PSOE’s crutch, it’s store brand,” said María Dolores Cospedal, the PP’s secretary general.

Rivera has insisted that the pact, which includes around 200 measures outlined in broad brushstrokes, is “80% Ciudadanos’ election program.”

“We have said from the start that we want the support of the seven million Spaniards  who voted for the PP,” said Ciudadanos’ spokesman Fernando de Páramo. “Many PP voters, as the opinion polls show, support this pact.”

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