SOCIALIST head Pedro Sánchez, still reeling from his second failed attempt at being voted in as president after left-wing parties gave him a collective 'no', says he believes Podemos is 'playing at getting fresh elections in Spain'.
“I thought that, as our values and ideas were most in affinity with theirs, it would have been a lot easier trying to talk to Podemos,” laments the PSOE boss (pictured).
But the socialists' deal with liberals Ciudadanos has upset the leftist party, led by Pablo Iglesias, who promptly broke off all negotiations with Sánchez.
And Sánchez says his three main red lines vis à vis Podemos would not change: the PSOE would never agree to an independence referendum in Catalunya, would not sanction Iglesias' desire to increase public spending in social programmes by €96 billion, and would not allow Iglesias to 'start demanding ministries and positions'.
Iglesias, 37, an ex-university professor in politics who started his party two years ago in a garage, wants to be deputy president – but Sánchez says he will not discuss individual status before he has agreed with other parties on policy.
Podemos' leader has always said he would wait until Sánchez lost the second in-house vote before he started talks, adding that it would be 'extremely difficult' for his party to form a deal with Ciudadanos.
“Our political values are too different,” says Iglesias, who believes Ciudadanos to be 'too far-right' and 'only concerned about the top-end stock market companies' rather than social welfare.
“But our formula – a Valencian-style government with left-wing parties Compromís and United Left – would give Sánchez a total of 162 seats,” he stresses.
“This is far more viable, since the Basque and Catalunya nationalist parties would agree to at least abstain, if not vote in favour.”
For a majority, whoever governs needs 176 seats out of the 352 in Parliament, but the current reigning right-wing PP only has 123, the PSOE 90, Podemos 65, and Ciudadanos 40.
Whichever way they do the sums, no party or politically-compatible coalition of parties would achieve a majority, but if any agreed amalgamation of them earns 176 votes in two months' time, it will be able to govern.
If this fails, the second vote will need a simple majority only – more 'yes' than 'no' votes – but in the likely event of this happening, Spain will go back to the polls for another general election on June 26.
It will be the first time in the country's democratic history that a second election has ever been called.
PP leader and acting president Mariano Rajoy has called for Sánchez to 'stop messing about' and 'let the party with the most seats govern' – which would be the PP.
Sánchez has, once again, ruled out supporting the PP even if Rajoy was not the lead candidate.
He was full of praise for Ciudadanos' leader Albert Rivera, however, saying the party boss had put his own political ambitions aside in order to thrash out a deal with the PSOE.
“The deal with Rivera, which includes 200 reforms, is and always has been open to all other political parties to give their feedback and input,” Sánchez stresses.
But he is mystified over Podemos' attitude and says he 'does not know what they are up to'.
“I'd like to be able to trust them, but what they're doing right now is making me think exactly the opposite,” the PSOE boss admitted.
“I think they're playing at trying to get fresh elections in Spain.”
Despite the PP winning marginally more of the votes and gaining the most seats, Sánchez believes Mariano Rajoy's 'time is over' – especially when Rajoy turned down King Felipe VI's nomination for him to form a government, saying he did not have enough support from the other parties.
And Rajoy is adamant that he will not give way to another head candidate – although even if he did, Sánchez says he will still not support the PP.
Whilst Sánchez did not categorically rule out the idea of a mega-coalition between the PSOE, PP and Ciudadanos, he said it would be 'far more logical' if those parties who sought change worked together rather than 'those who want to stay stuck in a rut' – as in, the PP.
“Many of the necessary reforms need ideological input from the centre-right as well as the centre-left,” Sánchez admits.
The next deadline for the various parties to try to reach an agreement is May 2; after this, the King is required by law to dissolve Parliament and call a second general election.