Spain's Sanchez accepts mandate to form government amid fragmented parliament
By Ashifa Kassam and Belén Carreño
Spain's acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Wednesday that he had accepted a mandate from the king to try and form a government, and would contact other parties starting next week to drum up support amid a deeply fragmented parliament.
"Spaniards are fed up with anger and clashes, they want to believe in politics again," Socialist Mr Sanchez told reporters. "They want consensus and stability."
The process is still likely to take several weeks before any new government can be voted on by parliament.
Sanchez said he would start on Monday by reaching across the political spectrum to Pablo Casado, the leader of the conservative Partido Popular as well as centre-right Ciudadanos.
Mr Sanchez said he would also call each of Spain's regional leaders, while a Socialist party official has been assigned to contact other parties to rally support.
National elections since 2015 have resulted in hung parliaments, forcing the winner to try to negotiate support from others to form a government.
The Socialists, led by Mr Sanchez, have been scrambling to drum up support since winning the Nov. 10 election but falling short of a majority.
Just two days after the election, Sanchez announced a preliminary coalition deal with far-left Unidas Podemos. But together the parties have 155 seats, short of the 176 seats needed for a majority in the 350-seat parliament.
The shortage of seats has left Sanchez and his party courting Catalan separatist party ERC, whose 13 seats offer the party a chance to play the role of potential kingmaker in the government.
ERC - whose leader Oriol Junqueras was sentenced to 13 years in prison earlier this year over the failed 2017 bid for Catalan independence - has relished the opportunity.
As talks began last month, ERC set out a list of demands including unconditional dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan regional governments and a guarantee that any commitments made will be carried out.
King Felipe VI began formal consultations on Tuesday, meeting with the leaders of more than a dozen parties in his role as a facilitator.
Mr Sanchez on Wednesday did not offer any details on talks with ERC, instead calling on parties to take "responsibility" to end the political deadlock.
He was aiming for a timeline of "as soon as possible," he said, but noted it did not depend on his party.
"Voters were clear on Nov. 10, they want the Socialists to govern. There is no other possible alternative," he said. "Spain needs to move forward, we all need to do our part."