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Socialists and left-wing party reach coalition deal in Spain

Spanish acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Unidas Podemos (Together We Can) leader Pablo Iglesias hug during a news conference at Spain's Parliament in Madrid, Spain, November 12, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Sergio Perez

By Ciaran Giles and Barry Hatton, Associated Press

The leaders of Spain's Socialist party and the left-wing Unidas Podemos party say they have reached a preliminary agreement to form a coalition government, two days after a general election called to try to break months of political deadlock.

But the deal will not provide enough votes in parliament for both parties to take office without the support of other groups.

Incumbent prime minister Pedro Sanchez's left-of-centre Socialists won 120 seats in Sunday's ballot but fell far short of a majority in the 350-seat chamber. Unidas Podemos got 35 seats.

In a joint appearance, Mr Sanchez and United We Can leader Pablo Iglesias said that under the deal Mr Sanchez would be prime minister and Mr Iglesias his deputy in a future government.

They will begin talks with other parties to get more support.

A lack of agreement between the two after a general election last April was one of the main reasons why Mr Sanchez was forced to call Sunday's election, the fourth in as many years.

The two cited mutual distrust as the reason for not reaching a deal back then.

On Tuesday, they were all smiles as they signed the agreement in front of television cameras and hugged at the end.

Unidas Podemos has traditionally taken a more radical approach than the centre-left Socialists. The party grew out of protests against austerity measures during Europe's debt crisis.

"Spain needs a stable government, not an interim one, a solid one not a trial one, and it needs it now," Mr Sanchez said. He said the accord was aimed at lasting the statutory four-year term.

Pony-tailed Mr Iglesias wore jeans and an open-necked shirt to the signing ceremony, contrasting with Mr Sanchez's dark blue suit and tie.

Promising a progressive government, Mr Iglesias said it would work to use negotiations to resolve Spain's territorial crisis and for social justice as "the best vaccine against the extreme right".

Spain is undergoing its worst political crisis in decades with the secession conflict in the north-eastern region of Catalonia, which has fuelled a resurgence of extreme nationalism in the form of the far-right Vox party, which won 52 seats in the election to become Spain's third parliamentary force.

Both politicians said they will announce detailed policies at a later date.

The two will have to strike deals chiefly with regional parties and smaller leftist groups.

The deal was immediately dismissed by the Vox party as well as the main opposition conservative Partido Popular, which won 88 seats.

Newly elected parliamentarians will select a house speaker in December and then talks between King Felipe VI and party leaders will begin so that one of them, most likely Mr Sanchez, will be called on to try to form a government.