Madriud: Spain`s Socialists, racing to try and form a minority coalition government following inconclusive elections, on Wednesday got their first pledge of support after signing a deal with centrist party Ciudadanos.
The deal is a boost for Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez as he seeks enough backing from lawmakers to become Spanish leader when they vote for or against his government programme next week.
But it still leaves him short of the votes needed, which means Spain still has no government in sight nearly 10 weeks after elections.
"There is a first deal with Ciudadanos, there are way more groupings that can make (Sanchez`s) investiture possible," the Socialists` Senate spokesman Oscar Lopez told Spanish radio. Sanchez and Ciudadanos chief Albert Rivera shook hands to applause after signing the agreement, which centres on what a new government led by the Socialists would look like.
It includes major territorial and judicial reforms, including changing the constitution to, for instance, modify rules governing lawmakers` immunity from prosecution -- demanded by Rivera in return for backing Sanchez.Spain has been mired in political deadlock since December elections resulted in a hung parliament split among four main parties -- none of which have enough seats to govern alone.
The ruling conservative Popular Party (PP) won the most seats but without an absolute majority, and leader Mariano Rajoy gave up attempts to form a government after he failed to get support from other parties fed up with corruption scandals plaguing his grouping and years of austerity.
As a result, King Felipe VI nominated runner-up Sanchez, whose Socialists won 89 seats out of 350, as prime ministerial candidate and he has been negotiating hard since then.
But even with Ciudadanos, which won 40 seats, Sanchez would still not have enough votes and would therefore need the backing of other parties -- a difficult task as all have conflicting agendas.
Anti-austerity party Podemos, an ally of Greece`s Syriza, won 65 seats and would therefore be a valuable partner.
But the long-established Socialists are wary of joining forces with an upstart party born just two years ago out of anger over austerity, and which ultimately seeks to supplant it.
The two parties are also deeply divided over Catalonia`s independence movement.
Although it does not want to see Spain split, Podemos backs the idea of a Scotland-style referendum in the northeastern region. Sanchez, however, is resolutely against this.
And crucially, it refuses to enter a government that would also include Ciudadanos, pushing instead for a left-wing coalition with Podemos chief Pablo Iglesias as deputy prime minister.