Socialists and Podemos agree on first ever coalition government for Spain
Meeting concludes with media reports announcing Iglesias' vice-presidency
Spain's Socialist acting president, Pedro Sánchez, and the head of left-wing Unidas Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, have reached an agreement to form a coalition government in Spain.
The two party leaders appeared in public to sign the agreement around noon, with some Spanish media outlets reporting that Iglesias will become vice president in the new "progressive government."
While the details of the document will soon be made public, it will focus on issues such as job insecurity, protecting public services and guaranteeing pensions and housing as "rights and not mere goods."
Other issues covered by the agreement include fighting climate change, strengthening small and medium-sized businesses, as well as euthanasia, culture as a right, gender equality, and fostering sport.
Catalonia's situation also features in the document, which pledges that "dialogue in Catalonia will be fostered, to look for formulas of mutual understanding, always within the Constitution."
Dealing with the right and seeking support
The move comes two days after the November 10 snap general election in which both the Socialists and Unidas Podemos lost congressional seats from the April 28 election, dropping from 123 to 120 and 42 to 35 respectively.
Sunday's vote was called after the two parties were unable to reach a coalition agreement following the April election, but they now face greater opposition from the right, with the People's Party obtaining 88 seats and far-right Vox 52.
As the Socialists and Unidas Podemos only have 155 seats – an absolute majority requires 176 – they will need the backing of smaller formations and the abstention of either Esquerra Republicana or Ciutadans.
"An emphatically progressive government"
After the signing, Iglesias said "it's an honor to be able to work in the country's government to improve the lives of our compatriots. Sánchez knows that he can count on our loyalty."
As for Sánchez, he said "this new government will be emphatically progressive because it will work for the progress of all Spaniards. What there will be no place for is hate and confrontation."
Catalan government gives agreement cautious welcome
The Catalan government welcomed the resumption in talks between the two party leader, although spokeswoman, Meritxell Budó, regretted they did not reach an agreement after the April election, and so avoided "more instability and the far right in the institutions."
Budó also said the government approved of the fact that the acting president had come to understand that political agreements are "necessary," adding "we're pleased that Sánchez has come round to dialogue, we'll see what happens."
Jaume Asens, the leader in Congress of Podemos' Catalan affiliate, En Comú Podem (ECP), also welcomed the agreement, saying "it has to be capable of protecting social rights and opening a new phase of dialogue for Catalonia."
Yet, the head of the conservative People's Party, Pablo Casado, pledged "firm and robust" opposition to the coalition government: "PP will be with Spaniards to represent an alternative future, far from extremists, pro-independence supporters, and Podemos radicals."