surinenglish

THE EURO ZONE

What to do?

I wrote here last week that acting prime minister Pedro Sánchez seemed to be the only Spanish politician willing to work through the summer to resolve Spain's political deadlock. I spoke too soon, because on Saturday the PSOE leader headed to Huelva's Doñana National Park with his family for a summer holiday. Skimming over my premature optimism, and before we all disappear into the Malaga feria for a few days of unrestrained hedonism, let's take a look at the tasks awaiting Sánchez at the beginning of September.

Top of the priority list for the PSOE leader will be talks with Pablo Iglesias, secretary general of the Socialists' potential leftist ally Unidas Podemos (UP). It's hard to believe, though, that the upcoming round of negotiations will be any more successful than the last. Talks broke down before the summer break because Iglesias was demanding important cabinet positions for UP members, such as control of the Labour Ministry, which Sánchez is unwilling to grant.

The PSOE leader's reluctance is understandable. Not only are the Socialists more centrist than UP on economics, the latter party only possesses 42 seats in congress - hardly enough to justify the possession of weighty ministerial roles (and much less than the PSOE's 123). Iglesias displayed lack of pragmatism when he rejected the last offer that Sánchez made him, which included the post of deputy prime minister and control of several ministries. If the acting premier proposes a similar deal this time around, UP would be unwise to turn it down. Compromise is key to obtaining a share of national power in Spain.

If talks with Iglesias fail again, Sánchez has to be prepared to look elsewhere for support - something he's so far been unwilling to do. His obvious partner, after UP, is Albert Rivera's centrist, liberal Ciudadanos, with which the Socialists would possess 180 seats in congress - four more than the number required for a majority. Differences over Catalonia currently separate these two parties, but Sánchez's and Rivera's reluctance to resolve them in order to join forces is baffling. The PSOE leader's task in September will be to convince Rivera that a pact with the Socialists is not a pact with a nutty leftwing force that supports Catalan secession.

Finally, the overarching aim of all these negotiations must be to avoid yet another general election. Spaniards' trust in politicians is at an all-time low and would be further reduced if the current crop fail, once again, to form a government. One of my favourite lines from the UK comedy The Thick of It comes when Malcolm Tucker, the character based on Alastair Campbell, declares that his 'to-do list' is "longer than a f***ing Leonard Cohen song".

Come September, Sánchez's will be just as lengthy.