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Spain's Sanchez seeks to avoid election, Podemos coalition offer off

REUTERS/Sergio Perez

Spain's Socialists said on Friday that they would keep working with all parties to avoid a repeat election but were no longer prepared to offer a coalition government to far-left Podemos, which blocked their attempt to be confirmed in power.
In a parliamentary election three months ago, Pedro Sanchez's Socialists garnered the most votes but fell short of a majority, leaving Spain in a political limbo and voters angry with inability of parties to compromise.
Mr Sanchez has been serving as acting prime minister in the meantime. This week he lost two votes after failing to agree on a coalition government with Podemos.
"We have tried to have a coalition government and Podemos blocked it. There is no path in that direction... Other formulas can be explored, but not the coalition," Socialist deputy prime minister Carmen Calvo told a news conference.
"There must be a lot of frustration in the country that there is no government," Ms Calvo said.
In theory, Mr Sanchez has until mid-September to be confirmed as premier or field another candidate. Failing that, a new election would have to be called on November 10.
Voters say they have no desire to go back to the polls and want politicians to resolve the situation.
Mario Sanchez, a 47-year-old salesman, said parties need to find a way to form a government.
In Spain's increasingly fragmented politics, absolute majorities were a thing of the past, so any new election would not solve the problem, he said.
"It's a real failure and an embarrassment for all politicians in parliament. At this pace we are never going to have a government," he said.
Due to its political gridlock Spain has been without a proper budget since last year, and various proposed reforms remain stuck in parliament.
Senior Podemos lawmaker Ione Belarra called on the Socialists to agree to resume coalition talks to try to reach an agreement in August.
Her colleague Pablo Echenique told Onda Cero radio: "We have no problem coming to an agreement because we know that it would be better than having an election again."
Political analysts say that despite the drama of the past week, which they say was natural for a transition from one-party majority governments to coalition governments in a fragmented environment, a solution could be found by September.
Alfonso Valesco of The Economist Intelligence Unit said the Socialists and Podemos had made concessions since April's election and could overcome their differences by September. Podemos may prefer to avoid a new election where it would be blamed for blocking a leftist government option, he added. (Reuters)

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