Spain's Ciudadanos moots post-vote support for Socialists

Madrid (AFP) –


Spain's business-friendly Ciudadanos said Saturday it would consider working with the Socialists after November's poll if it would break the political deadlock that has dragged the country to its fourth elections in as many years.

With just over a month until the November 10 vote, Albert Rivera said his centre-right party, which until now has refused to support Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's efforts to form a government, would be willing to sit down and talk.

Although the Socialists won the April election, they fell short of an absolute majority and Sanchez was unable to secure the backing to be confirmed as prime minister, blaming rivals for the deadlock.

This time, polls suggest the Socialists are on track for another victory but again without an absolute majority, raising the spectre of yet another political impasse.

Meeting supporters on Saturday, Rivera said he would try "to convince Socialists... to sit down with us", although he did not say specifically how his party would extend its support.

The announcement was widely seen as a U-turn by Ciudadanos which until now has largely vetoed the option of backing Sanchez.

The party has said its first choice would be to enter a coalition with the rightwing Popular Party.

Rivera did briefly extend an olive branch to Sanchez last month as the latest crisis drew to a head, saying his party would abstain from any vote of confidence, thereby enabling him to be sworn in.

But the offer, which had a string of conditions attached, was dismissed by Sanchez.

- Separatists under fire -

There was no immediate reaction from Sanchez to Rivera's latest remarks, with the premier saying only that "the only unacceptable option is political deadlock" saying Spain needed a "cohesive and stable government".

"Stability is very important above all at a time when we are facing a secessionist challenge," Sanchez told delegates at a political conference in the northwestern Galicia region, saying the Catalan separatists had "failed".

The economy in the wealthy northeastern region, "has still not recovered to the level it was before October 2017" when its government held a banned referendum and made a short-lived declaration of independence, trigging Spain's worst political crisis in decades.

"Catalonia is not going to regain all of its potential for prosperity, nor will it be able to face the future until the pro-independence movement accepts reality, that its political programme has failed.. because it has been based on a string of lies," he said.

"When a false and exclusive idea about identity and democracy endangers... coexistence within society... there is clearly a failure, which is what has happened with the sovereignty movement in Catalonia."