Sánchez, Iglesias & Rivera to work together for change

PSOE's Pedro Sánchez (L) meeting Tuesday with Pablo Iglesias of Podemos. Photo: Uly Martín / El País
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• PSOE to set up separate working groups with Podemos and Ciudadanos
• Party leaders agree to jointly develop specific legislative reform initiatives

The secretary general of Spain’s Socialist party (PSOE), Pedro Sánchez, has met separately over two days with Pablo Iglesias of leftwing rival Podemos (We Can) and Albert Rivera of centre-right party Ciudadanos in what are admittedly the first steps of a gradual process that will see the three parties working together on legislative proposals, including some designed to overturn controversial laws passed by the absolute majority of the conservative governing Partido Popular (PP) during the last Congress.

During a meeting between Sánchez and Iglesias Tuesday, the two party leaders agreed to set up five joint working groups to develop legislation in a number of areas, including the PSOE priorities reached in an accord with the CCOO & UGT trade unions to include more young people in the labour force, reinforce Spain’s pension system, work toward gender equality in the workplace, bolster unemployment insurance and repeal Franco-era laws that criminalize industrial strike actions.

Iglesias said after the meeting that Podemos would also like to see agreement on increasing government spending limits in the 2018 budget and enacting a comprehensive plan against child poverty, while hoping to convince the Socialists to support his party in taking Spain’s ratification of the EU-Canada CETA trade deal before Spain’s Supreme Court.

On Wednesday, Sánchez met separately with Rivera and the two agreed to establish working groups after the Congressional summer recess to explore amending Spain’s 1978 Constitution, especially in the areas of democratic reform in areas of specific interest to Ciudadanos, including an end to immunity for Congressional Deputies and Senators from prosecution by lower courts, term limits for elected officials at all levels and an overhaul of the Electoral Law governing elections at the national, regional and local levels in Spain.

In what appears to be a successful work-around the thorny ideological issues that divided Podemos and Ciudadanos and kept them from joining the PSOE in forming a progressive governing alliance to oust President Mariano Rajoy last year, Ciudadanos agreed to include Podemos in joint working groups whenever the two parties coincid on the need for reform. Podemos, for its part, has backed away from a demand that the Socialists move forward quickly with a motion of censure against Rajoy, agreeing to respect the PSOE’s timetable and priorities for legislative change as a necessary first step toward any change in government.

► Read More in Spanish at El País, Público and El Mundo …

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