Spain’s Podemos Leader Rules Out Coalition With Any Party

Above Photo: Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias. Photograph: Juan Carlos Hidalgo/EPA

After talks with acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy, Pablo Iglesias says his party will work on emergency laws to help poor Spaniards

The head of Spain’s leftwing Podemos party, a potential kingmaker following an inconclusive general election, has ruled out offering support to any party in forming a new government.

Pablo Iglesias, whose party won a surprisingly high 69 seats in the general election on 20 December, refused to talk of forming alliances after meeting with acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy.

Instead he said the priority for Podemos when parliament reconvenes on 13 January will be to help the poor by proposing a “social emergency” law that prevents families from being evicted for not paying their mortgage and ensures pensioners can buy their medicine.

“There are Spaniards who cannot wait,” Iglesias, whose cheap supermarket clothing contrasts sharply with the suits of other party leaders, told a news conference after his talks with Rajoy.

Rajoy’s conservative People’s party (PP) won the most votes in the election but lost its absolute majority, taking 123 seats in the 350-seat lower house of parliament – down from 186 it got in 2011. He is trying to form a minority government but struggling to get support from other parties.

Podemos, which came in third place in the election despite having been founded just two years ago, and the Socialists, which came second with 90 seats, refuse to support Rajoy.

The leader of the Socialists, Pedro Sánchez, wants to form a leftwing government with Podemos. But on Monday he demanded that Podemos abandons its support for an independence referendum in Catalonia. The vast majority of Catalans support holding such a referendum, which all national parties except Podemos oppose.

Sánchez said on Monday that the condition for talks with Podemos is that it “renounce any position that implies the rupture of the coexistence between Spaniards”. Iglesias, who has described politics as “the art of accumulating power”, refused. “The only way to defend the unity of our country is through democratic processes,” he said.

Podemos wants Catalonia to remain a part of Spain and appears to bet that Catalans will reject independence in a referendum, like Scotland did last year and Quebec did in 1980 and 1995.

Iglesias also defended his proposal to have an independent leftwing-friendly personality be appointed prime minister instead of Sanchez, whose leadership of the Socialists in contested by top party members.

Rajoy also met with the leader of new centre-right party Ciudadanos, which came fourth in the election winning 40 seats.

If there is still a deadlock after two months from a first vote of confidence in parliament on a new prime minister, new elections must be held.