Spain's caretaker PM Sanchez accepts mandate to form cabinet

Photo: EPA Spain's King Felipe VI (R) and acting PM Pedro Sanchez, Madrid, 11 December.

Spain's King Felipe VI on Wednesday nominated acting PM Pedro Sanchez as the candidate with the best chance of being sworn in as prime minister by parliament. The monarch made his decision after finishing a first round of talks with political leaders to determine whether there is a viable candidate to form a government in the wake of the repeat general election of 10 November. The Socialist party (PSOE), led by Sanchez, won the election without obtained a majority.

Sanchez said he had accepted the mandate and would contact other parties starting next week to drum up support amid a deeply fragmented parliament. The process is still likely to take several weeks before any new government can be voted by lawmakers.

Just two days after the vote in November, Sanchez announced a preliminary coalition deal with far-left Unidas Podemos. But together the parties have 155 seats, short of the 176 seats needed for a majority in the 350-seat parliament. The shortage of seats has left Sanchez and his party courting Catalan separatist party ERC, whose 13 seats offer the party a chance to play the role of potential kingmaker in the government. ERC, whose leader Oriol Junqueras was sentenced to 13 years in prison earlier this year over the failed 2017 bid for Catalan independence . As talks began last month, ERC set out a list of demands including unconditional dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan regional governments and a guarantee that any commitments made will be carried out.

Sanchez said he would start on Monday by reaching across the political spectrum to Pablo Casado, the leader of the conservative People’s Party as well as centre-right Ciudadanos. He would also call each of Spain’s regional leaders, while a Socialist party official has been assigned to contact other parties to rally support.

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