Spain's Socialists sign 1st pact to support bid to form govt

MADRID (AP) — Spain's Socialist party signed an agreement Wednesday with liberal newcomer party Ciudadanos to support the Socialists' bid to form a government next week, but they are still way short of a majority.

Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez can now count on his party's 90 seats and 40 from Ciudadanos in the 350-seat lower house of Parliament. But the conservative Popular Party, with 123 seats, has said it will vote against him while far-left newcomer Podemos, with 69, said Tuesday it would vote against Sanchez if he did a deal with Ciudadanos.

The Socialists were to continue talks with Podemos on Wednesday in the hope of reaching agreement.

The Socialists and Ciudadanos signed the pact after agreeing on a set of reforms to be made by the next government. Sanchez declined to comment on whether it might ruin any possibility of an agreement with Podemos.

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera said the two parties would work toward persuading others to come on board.

The Socialists' main difference with Podemos is the latter's insistence on allowing the northeastern Catalonia region to hold a referendum on secession.

Sanchez will present his government plans for debate in Parliament Tuesday, and the next day face a vote of confidence, which he must win with a majority.

If he fails, a second vote takes place two days later when he only needs more votes in favor than against.

If he wins neither, Parliament must choose a government in two months or face fresh elections.

The ruling Popular Party came first in the Dec. 20 election but its leader, acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, refused to try to form a government, saying he lacked sufficient support.

The elections, with the emergence of Podemos and Ciudadanos, led to Spain's most fragmented Parliament in decades and shattered the dominance of the Popular Party and the Socialists.


This story has been corrected to show day deal signed was Wednesday, not Thursday.