After three months of back-and-forth since Spain's general election, Pablo Iglesias's attempts to negotiate a coalition government with Pedro Sánchez ran up to the last second, with him making a final offer today in the Congress itself. But the leader of PSOE had already decided that everything was over for his candidacy for prime minister this time. Sánchez has ended up losing today's second round of voting, in which he only needed more votes in favour than those against, despite the new abstentions of Catalan pro-independence party ERC.
Sánchez today used his speech from the podium to go on the offensive against the party that was to have been his partner, Iglesias's Unidas Podemos. Neither side of the failed negotiations was short of criticisms for the other. If no solution is now found before 23rd September, Spain will head to its second general election in a year on 10th November.
Early this Thursday, Podemos had made an offer reducing its demands to a deputy prime minister and three ministries, a request rejected by PSOE within minutes. During his speech in the chamber, Sánchez suggested the sticking point was over the labour ministry. Iglesias, in his reply, then dropped it, saying: "we'd renounce the labour ministry in exchange for powers on active employment policies". But that was in vain; also rejected. "It's meaningless", an acting minister argued outside the chamber.
This meant today's second round of voting, in which Sánchez only needed a simple majority would also flounder. In the end, he got the same 124 votes in favour as on Tuesday: his own party, plus the one deputy of the Partido Regionalista de Cantabria. The votes against were 155 (PP, Ciudadanos, Vox, JxCat, Navarra Suma and Coalición Canaria) whilst there were 67 abstentions (Unidas Podemos, ERC, EAJ, EH Bildu and Compromís). The only change from Tuesday was Catalan pro-independence party ERC, which had announced it would abstain this time to be one obstacle fewer to the formation of a government, and to put pressure on PSOE and Podemos to reach an agreement.
Speaking from the podium, Sánchez didn't pull his punches: "If, to be prime minister, I have to renounce my principles, if I have to choose to form a government knowing it won't be useful for my country, I won't be prime minister now". He told Iglesias that, even if he didn't like PSOE's offer, it was "respectful, correct and sensible" and not "humiliating".
For his part, whilst not closing himself off to further talks, Iglesias attacked PSOE's strategy over the last few hours, including their leaking of Podemos's proposals. He also read a list of the concessions they've made in their negotiating position trying to achieve a coalition government. "It's very difficult to negotiate in 48 hours what they haven't wanted to negotiate in 80 days", he said, "it's very difficult to negotiate a coalition government against the clock and with it being leaked in real time to the media".