Spanish PM appeals for clear majority in repeat election

Madrid (AFP) –

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Spain's acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Wednesday urged voters to give his Socialist party a clear majority in a repeat general election in November, so they could tackle the country's economic and political challenges.

Sanchez late on Tuesday announced that Spain would return to the polls on November 10 in what will be its fourth general election in four years.

The decision came after he failed to secure support from rival parties to confirm him as premier following an inconclusive April general election.

His Socialist party won, but without an overall majority, as they only secured 123 of the parliament's 350 seats.

Sanchez blamed rival parties on both the left and right for the failure to reach a deal that would allow him to win a confidence vote in parliament to govern for another term.

"I hope Spaniards will give the Socialist party a larger majority so you will no longer be in a position to block the formation of a government which Spain needs," he told the leaders of other parties during a parliamentary debate.

Spain needs a stable government to face up to the slowdown in the global economy, Britain's looming exit from the European Union and an ongoing separatist challenge in the wealthy northeastern region of Catalonia, he added.

The leader of the main opposition conservative Popular Party, Pablo Casado, accused Sanchez of "irresponsibility".

Sanchez wanted to gain power "by exhausting voters" with elections and had not seriously tried to form a coalition government, he said.

"You wanted to return to the polls since the beginning and you tricked Spaniards during five months," Casado said.

Sanchez failed to form a coalition government with the far-left party Podemos after they walked away, saying the ministerial posts offered were not substantial enough.

He tried to agree a joint programme with Podemos in exchange for the far-left party's support, but that failed when Podemos insisted on being part of any new government.

Spain has never had a coalition government since its return to democracy following the death of longtime dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

Polls suggest the Socialists would win more seats in a repeat election but still fall short of a majority.