madrid. Spain's MPs will go into their summer breaks without having chosen a new prime minister. Pedro Sánchez, PSOE Socialist party leader, didn't secure enough votes in two rounds of voting this week in the Madrid Congreso after failing to gain the support of left-wing Unidas Podemos (UP) for his candidacy.
Sánchez will now try to keep negotiating with parties ahead of a 23 September constitutional deadline for any other attempted investiture. But on Thursday lunchtime, after the second stage of the two-vote process, the position of the PSOE, who won most seats but not a majority in April's general election, and UP seemed further apart than ever.
UP had asked for direct ministerial control of social and employment policy, as well as tax, in a form of coalition, however, despite an apparent thawing in relations last weekend, the UP proposal was roundly rejected by the PSOE in the end.
The investiture debate began on Monday and a first vote of MPs took place on Tuesday lunchtime. Sánchez needed an absolute majority of MPs to be declared next PM. However he secured only 124, his own MPs plus one other, which was short of the 176 needed.
Following parliamentary procedure, Congreso was summoned 48 hours later on Thursday, when all the PSOE needed was more 'yes' votes than 'no' votes.
As expected, the PSOE didn't triumph here either, gaining 124 yes votes again. If there is still no break through by 23 September, parliament will be dissolved and a fresh general election could be held as early as 10 November.
Explaining why the PSOE had not reached a deal with UP, acting deputy prime minister and chief negotiator for the PSOE, Carmen Calvo, said, "UP has tried all along to negotiate from a position that doesn't match the votes it got and its representation versus ours."
UP offer still open
Calvo said that UP leader Pablo Iglesias had rejected the PSOE offer of certain roles but instead "they have literally asked us for the government. What would be left for the PSOE to take forward its electoral programme?" she added, referring to UP's request to have the ministries controlling tax and spending plans. She added that even with UP, the right numbers for investiture aren't guaranteed, depending as well on the goodwill of the PNV Basque nationalist party and the ERC left-wing Catalan republican party. She also questioned UP's commitment to a united Spanish state rather than appeasement for separatists.
In the debating chamber on Thursday, UP leader Pablo Iglesias reassured the PSOE, saying that he was looking for "responsibility for areas, not seats at the table" and that his offer to be a "preferred partner" of the PSOE was still open, provided that the UP was treated with "respect".