Freshly returned from his summer holiday, acting prime minister Pedro Sánchez is once again trying to woo potential ally Pablo Iglesias, leader of the leftist group Uindas Podemos (UP). As well as unveiling an ambitious 370-point policy plan this week, Sánchez also offered Iglesias what he called a "rigorous system of control" over a minority Socialist government, in an attempt to secure UP's votes in the next investiture vote (due to be held this month).
As part of this deliberately vague-sounding package, the Socialist leader also proposed that Iglesias' party has "key responsibilities" in the next administration and that it controls monitoring committees in both Congress and Senate. Is Iglesias likely to accept the proposals?
No, he's not. Even a fleeting assessment of the phrasing used by Sánchez reveals that UP aren't being offered any real power at all. It was for precisely this reason that talks between the two men stalled ahead of the summer break: Iglesias was demanding control of the Labour Ministry and other weighty portfolios, which Sánchez initially denied him on the grounds that "two governments in one" would thereby be created. That's essentially what a coalition is, and precisely what Sánchez is trying to avoid, even though his party is 53 seats short of a parliamentary majority.
Bizarrely, at the end of July, the Socialist leader came back to the negotiating table with another package, in which UP would be given control of several ministries (although not the labour ministry) as well as a deputy prime ministerial role. Even more weirdly, Iglesias refused it. He might come to regret that, as it was the best offer Sánchez is likely to make him. It was certainly far superior to the one that's currently on the table, which would turn UP into a toothless regulatory body on the fringes of real power.
In his superb new book After The Fall, Tobias Buck, former Madrid correspondent for the Financial Times, argues that the key to success on Spain's unprecedentedly fractured political scene is compromise and coalition. It's a compelling point, as none of the country's five main political parties has a large enough share of the national vote to rule by itself. Yet the standoff between the Socialists and UP shows that Spain's politicians (or at least two of them) haven't truly grasped the importance of compromise yet.
Sánchez, as the leader of the largest party in congress (the PSOE controls 123 of the 350 seats) is unwilling to share power; but Iglesias, whose UP occupies just 35 seats, is asking for too much. "We don't want votes at our investiture for free," Sánchez told El País newspaper last weekend. Perhaps not; but it seems that he's not willing to pay Iglesias much for them either.