They spent the night letting off some steam before speaking in public. The press conference scheduled for Thursday night after the meeting with Ciudadanos and PSOE was cancelled. Pablo Iglesias and his followers gathered yesterday morning in the Parliament with the parliamentary group and its allies Galician En Marea and the Catalan En Comú podem. And they announced what everyone expected: the three-party pact, the “199” as Pedro Sánchez calls it, referring to the number of seats corresponding to the sum of the PSOE, Ciudadanos and Podemos seats in Parliament, is impossible.
But Podemos is not prepared to take the blame.
And it raises the stakes: we want to be “very clear and honest with the citizens of Spain” it said. This is why it submits to his 400 thousand militants two binding questions: a clever way to dodge the accusation of having blown up the deal.
“Do you want a government based on the Rivera-Sanchez pact?”
“Do you agree with the proposal to change the government defended by Podemos – En Marea – En Comú podem?”
Iglesias said he supports a negative answer to the first question and a positive answer to the second one, and that if the militants thought differently he will “assume the political responsibility”.
In reality, things have not changed since December 20th.
The Socialist Party had two options: on the one hand, working with Ciudadanos and the PP for a kind of Iberian Grand Coalition, supported directly or indirectly by the PP; or a Portuguese solution, inevitably supported indirectly by independent parties or by Ciudadanos with a technical abstention. But instead of attempting an agreement on the left and then find ways to convince Ciudadanos and someone else to refrain, Sánchez, with his hands tied by the large static and centralist sectors of the party, has chosen first to make a deal with Ciudadanos, which added only 40 seats to its 90, and then try to force Podemos to accept it. One option that Podemos has never considered.
On the other hand, right away Podemos was very aggressive with the Socialists, giving them the perfect excuse to start negotiations on the right instead of on the left, to the despair of Izquierda Unida and the Valencian Compromís, which tried all tricks to make Podemos and PSOE sit at the same table. At the end, the public meeting skit between Iglesias and Sánchez was just after Easter, behind the deadline.
Given the twists of these weeks, still everything is possible. But now it seems that the script was written.
Between Thursday and Saturday, the Podemos militants will reject the orange-red government, which implies another turn at the polls, despite the fact that surveys indicate another stalemate (unless this time, Podemos does not agree to the alliance with Izquierda Unida at the national level, in which case the electoral law could allow the PSOE to move forward).
Iglesias has asked polemically to the PSOE to be just as clear with its militants, but instead it submitted a very general question. “I wish for the PSOE to ask its militants if they prefer an alliance with Podemos or Ciudadanos, it would be great,” he said.
For the increasingly likely vote in June, once again Catalonia will be key.
Despite having put aside the referendum question in the negotiations of the past few days, Podemos (along with Iu) still remains the only national party to defend the right to self determination.
And in the meeting yesterday between Iglesias and the Catalan President Puigdemont, it was inevitably one of the issues on the table.