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Javier Bardem and 200 other artists make plea for a progressive government in Spain

With talks between the Socialists and Podemos at a deadlock, a group of writers and performers has signed a manifesto demanding a deal to avoid a repeat election

Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Unidas Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias.
Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Unidas Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias.

A group of Spanish artists has signed a manifesto urging the Socialist Party (PSOE) and Unidas Podemos to reach a governing deal in order to prevent a repeat election.

The petition is signed by more than 200 personalities from the world of culture, including actor Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men, The Sea Inside), writer Almudena Grandes (The Ages of Lulu, The Wind From the East) and film director Iciar Bollaín (Take My Eyes, Flowers From Another World).

The people came out in force to send a clear message: We don’t want the far right anywhere near the mechanisms of power

Artist manifesto

The request comes just days ahead of a critical parliamentary vote in Congress, which must decide whether to accept Pedro Sánchez as the new prime minister of Spain following the April 28 election. If the Socialist leader fails to secure this backing on July 23, Spaniards will likely be facing a new general election in the fall – the fourth in under four years.

The manifesto states: “The April elections opened up the possibility that a progressive majority could reach an understanding to govern together. The people came out in force to send a clear message: We don’t want the far right anywhere near the mechanisms of power. But the general enthusiasm after the elections is dissipating as the PSOE and Unidas Podemos struggle to reach an agreement in government negotiations.”

“No party won a big enough majority to govern alone and polls have since shown that the people prefer for there to be an agreement between progressive parties. Now is the time to make a deal, come to an understanding, reach an agreement. Now is the time to make policy for the people,” the manifesto adds.

The call comes as both parties continue to clash over the makeup of the future government. The leader of Unidas Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, whose party came in fourth at the April ballot, wants a coalition government with the Socialist Party (PSOE), which won the election but fell short of an overall majority.

Spanish actor Javier Bardem with his wife Penelope Cruz.
Spanish actor Javier Bardem with his wife Penelope Cruz. FilmMagic

But acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, of the PSOE, has stated he is not willing to give Iglesias a spot on the Cabinet. Instead, he is offering a few ministerial positions to Podemos members with a lower public profile. On Thursday, Sánchez said the main stumbling block to reaching a deal was the anti-austerity leader’s insistence on being part of the new government.

The acting PM also says that deep differences between both parties over certain key issues, such as the Catalan crisis, would make a joint government effectively impossible.

“Pablo Iglesias speaks of political prisoners, and I need a deputy who will defend Spanish democracy,” said Sánchez in an interview on Thursday with the radio station Cadena SER, alluding to Catalan independence leaders in custody awaiting a Supreme Court verdict after being tried for their involvement in the 2017 breakaway bid.

Sánchez’s comments coincided with the results of an Unidas Podemos internal consultation, which revealed that 70% of the party’s grassroots members support Iglesias’ push for a coalition government.

If the deadlock is not broken, Spain could be facing repeat elections in November – a situation, which according to the artists’ statement, must be avoided at all costs.

“Why take on the risk of new elections that could reverse the democratic progress reached in April and open the door to the far right?” the document asks, referring to the rise of the far-right group Vox, which won 24 deputies at the April ballot.

The failure of PSOE and Unidas Podemos to reach a deal means that Sánchez is unlikely to have enough support to be voted back into office at next week’s investiture session. While the PSOE won the April 28 election with 123 seats, this is shy of an overall majority. Unidas Podemos came in fourth with 42 lawmakers, behind the Popular Party (66) and Ciudadanos (57). But the latter two groups have refused to back Sánchez’s bid, leaving the anti-austerity group and a collection of smaller regional parties to negotiate with.

English version by Susana Urra and Melissa Kitson.

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