spain coalition government
© Gabriel Bouys/AFP
Sánchez and Iglesias during today’s press conference.
Caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and the leader of left-wing Unidas Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, have signed a preliminary agreement to form a coalition government after Sunday's inconclusive repeat general election in Spain. Despite months of negotiations between the parties to strike a governing deal following the April poll, the two leaders have done this deal less than 48 hours after Sunday's vote.

At just before 2.30pm, Sánchez and Iglesias appeared before the press to sign their agreement, before they both made statements.

"As I said on election night after hearing the results, what was a historical opportunity in April has become a historical necessity," said the Unidas Podemos leader, who will be deputy prime minister should the deal come to fruition. "I'm pleased to announce today, together with Pedro Sánchez, that we have reached a preliminary agreement to create a progressive coalition government that combines the experience of the PSOE with the courage of Unidas Podemos."

"The agreement wasn't possible," said Sánchez, in reference to the parties' failure to do a deal after the April polls. "We are aware of the disappointment. It will be a progressive government whatever the case. A progressive government made up of progressive forces that are going to work for progress. There is no room for hatred between Spaniards," he said, in a thinly veiled reference to far-right group Vox. The caretaker prime minister went on to say that the government would last "for four years, the entire term."

The two leaders shook hands and hugged each other as the press conference came to an end, with wide smiles after the assembled staff and journalists in the room let out a collective "Ahhhhhh!" on seeing the pair embrace.
spain coalition iglesias sanchez
© Andrea Comas
Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias embrace after signing their agreement on Tuesday.
Sunday's election was called by Sánchez after negotiations between the PSOE and Unidas Podemos broke down in the wake of the April 28 general election, which returned a similar inconclusive result to this weekend's poll. During those talks the PSOE had offered Unidas Podemos a role as deputy prime minister as well as the control of three ministries, but Iglesias turned them down.

The general election on Sunday saw Sánchez lose three seats in Congress, falling from 123 to 120 in a 350-seat parliament where 176 votes are needed for a majority. Podemos took 35 seats, falling from the 42 it won in April. The big winner on Sunday night was Vox, which went from 24 seats to 52, becoming the third-biggest political force in Congress after the PSOE and conservative Popular Party (PP).

Talks between the leaders of the PSOE and Unidas Podemos began on Monday night in complete secrecy. It was only this morning, when the preliminary agreement was already on its way, that Socialist sources went public.

The same sources explained that now that the deal is done, there will be talks with other political groups who supported Sánchez's successful motion of no-confidence against former PP Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy last summer, a move that saw the Socialist politician take power.

Just this morning, the president of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), Andoni Ortuzar, said that he was willing to recover the block of allies that came together to oust Rajoy and get Sánchez into power. This block includes parties that support Catalan independence.

Opposition reaction

The leader of the main opposition Popular Party, Pablo Casado, today informed party chiefs of the pre-agreement during a meeting of the group's national executive committee. PP sources said that the deal between Sánchez and Iglesias frees the party of the pressure to support the PSOE in the formation of a government, and clears the way for them to exercise responsible opposition. The PP, the same sources said, is the "only alternative" to Sánchez.

Speaking shortly after 3pm, Casado held a press conference at PP headquarters. "We have heard the news that many Spaniards feared," he told reporters. "Pedro Sánchez has announced a deal and has offered the role of deputy prime minister to Iglesias to form a radical government, which is the opposite of what Spain needs. For this journey [...] there was no need to be subjected to surrealistic negotiations for six months, with territorial tensions and employment problems."

Casado went on to call for Sánchez to step down. "The historical PSOE must return," he said. "It's important for Sánchez to go because he is the blockage, but it's also important for the sensible PSOE to return. The public should be calling on him to emerge from the labyrinth in which he entered."

The PP leader also ruled out any kind of deal or support for the PSOE. "We are not going to be part of a government that he calls progressive, but which is on the radical left, and in cahoots with the Catalan regional government, which is breaking the law. We will be up to the circumstances."

Meanwhile, center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) stated that it would not support Sánchez's deal with Podemos. "We call on the responsibility of the PSOE and PP to reach a moderate deal with Ciudadanos that respects the Constitution, based on good state deals for our country," the party said. "Ciudadanos cannot back Sánchez and Podemos taking the reins of the Spanish government. It is disastrous and runs counter to the interests of the majority of Spaniards."

"A second chance"

Íñigo Errejón, the leader of new party Más País, applauded today's preliminary agreement, saying that his group - which took three seats at Sunday's polls - would vote in favor of Pedro Sánchez's investiture in Congress. Errejón, a co-founder of Podemos who left the party after falling out with Pablo Iglesias, said via Twitter that "Spaniards have given a second chance to a progressive government to create a fairer country. And we must comply with that mandate. We salute the pre-agreement and we will work to see it backed by a majority."