MADRID — Former Socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez said Wednesday he feels “cheated” by current Socialist party leader Pedro Sanchez for failing to end Spain’s nine-month political deadlock.
Gonzalez told Cadena SER radio that Sanchez had told him in private after the last election in June that he would accept being in opposition and would abstain in a parliamentary confidence vote, allowing acting conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to form a minority government. But in the end Sanchez and his lawmakers voted against Rajoy on two occasions.
Gonzalez’s revelation added fuel to an increasingly bitter party debate over Sanchez’s leadership ahead of a crucial party federal committee meeting Saturday.
Senior party figures have slammed Sanchez because of the Socialists’ worst results ever in regional and national elections this year. They also claim that, given the disastrous results, his insistence on blocking Rajoy’s bid was damaging to both the party and the country.
Rajoy has been heading a caretaker government for almost a year after two inconclusive elections in December and June. His party won the most seats in both, but lacks enough support in Parliament to form a government.
Spain has never had a coalition government, and the country’s main parties are not used to negotiating deals with opponents.
The Socialists, who have run most Spanish governments since democracy returned in 1978, won just 85 seats in the 350-seat parliament in the June election, the fewest ever.
Sanchez said Wednesday he respected Gonzalez’ opinion but noted that the stance against Rajoy had been approved by the federal committee.
Sanchez called Saturday’s meeting to propose putting the party leadership up for contest next month in what is seen as an open challenge to his critics.
Parliament has until Oct. 31 to form a government or the country will face an unprecedented third election in a year.