Spain’s Socialist party and hard-left Sumar said Tuesday they had reached an agreement to form a coalition government, a key step to reinstating acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez for another term.
Spain is in political limbo since an inconclusive July general election which was won by the conservative Popular Party (PP) but without enough support to form a government.
Last month PP leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo lost a key parliamentary vote to become prime minister.
Sanchez, whose Socialists finished second, now has a chance. Sumar’s support is crucial but not enough to ensure he will pass a confidence vote in the lower house of parliament.
But the Socialist premier, who has governed since 2018, still needs the backing in parliament of smaller regional parties, including Catalan separatists JxCat and their more moderate rivals ERC.
“We have governed for five years and we will continue to do so for four more years,” he said after he and Sumar leader, acting Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz, signed the agreement at a ceremony in Madrid.
The deal includes a proposal to reduce working hours to 37.5 hours per week from 40 hours without reducing salaries, measures to boost public housing and a “shock plan” against youth unemployment, the two parties said in a joint statement.
“This governing deal for a four-year legislative term will allow our country to continue growing in a sustainable manner and with quality employment, developing policies based on social and climate justice while broadening rights, feminist conquests and freedoms,” they said.
No date has been set for Sanchez to face the confidence vote. If no candidate for prime minister secures a majority by November 27, a repeat election will be called for January.
In exchange for its crucial support, JxCat and ERC are demanding an amnesty for hundreds of politicians and activists facing legal action over their role in Catalonia’s failed 2017 secession bid, which sparked Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.
The proposed amnesty has angered the right and some elements within Sanchez’s party, who argue it jeopardises the rule of law and violates the constitution.
Among those who would benefit is JxCat leader Carles Puigdemont, who headed the Catalan regional government in 2017 when it made a short-lived declaration of independence after a violence-marred referendum banned by Madrid.
Puigdemont fled Spain shortly after to avoid prosecution and now lives in Belgium.
For many Spaniards he is considered an enemy of the state, so any deal that could benefit him is politically toxic.
The right has staged regular protests against the proposed amnesty, including one in Barcelona on October 8 that drew tens of thousands of demonstrators who called for Puigdemont to be imprisoned.
PP spokesman Borja Semper on Tuesday accused the Socialists and Sumar of lacking “transparency” for not mentioning the amnesty in their agreement. which he said was “worthless” unless it gets the green light from Catalan separatists.