Spain's Socialist government was set to present its budget proposal at a cabinet meeting this week even though it has no guarantee of counting with enough support for it to gain approval in Parliament, the prime minister said Tuesday.
Pedro Sánchez, whose party (PSOE) has just 84 lawmakers in Spain’s 350-seat parliament and relies on support from the anti-austerity Podemos party as well as Basque and Catalan nationalists, said he hoped to push through the budget with wide parliamentary backing.
"We are going to do it with all the parliamentary forces, not just pro-independence forces but also with those who are asking us not to depend on separatists," Sánchez said. "We are going to stretch out a hand of friendship to (the conservative opposition) Popular Party and (the right-of-center) Ciudadanos. I think it is important for us to maintain our good statistics of economic growth and job creation through 2019," he added.
Sánchez said he was also optimistic about being able to see out his mandate through to the end and defended his government's policy of dialogue with the northeastern region of Catalonia, and questioned the opposition PP and Ciudadanos for their approach to regional politics.
He was particularly scathing about the two right-of-center parties' deal with newcomer far right-wing party VOX in the southern region of Andalusia.
The ultra-right Vox emerged as a player in the regional parliament of Andalusia on Dec. 3 when it obtained 12 parliamentary seats in a traditional Socialist stronghold.
When asked why he hadn't called general elections yet — even though at the time of triggering a successful no-confidence vote against his predecessor Mariano Rajoy's minority PP government in June he had suggested he would — Sánchez said the PSOE strove for economic, social and political stability and that the central aim of his government was to finish its mandate by getting the budget approved.
The PSOE has relied on the support of pro-independence parties in Catalonia and the Basque region both to oust Rajoy in a vote of no-confidence and to form a minority government, but Sánchez dismissed this as a trigger for the rise of VOX in Andalusia.
The PM ascribed part of the blame for the appearance of VOX on the political spectrum to the conservatives.
"I believe Catalonia has conditioned Spanish politics for the last 30 years," Sánchez said. "What has always happened is that when the right has found itself in opposition it has used Catalonia and the Basque Country as a regional grievance in an attempt to scrape together votes from other areas in Spain."
When asked if he could foresee the PSOE reaching an agreement with Ciudadanos, as happened in 2015, Sánchez said the party they signed a deal with then had nothing to do with the current one.
"This Ciudadanos bargains with VOX," Sánchez said. "What I see is that (Ciudadanos party leader) Albert Rivera has made the wrong decision."
Sánchez said he had spoken to other European liberal parties and found they did not understand Riviera's attitude of negotiating a deal with the far right in Spain.
One of the things Sánchez's minority government has led on is the exhumation of ex-military dictator Gen. Francisco Franco's remains by passing a law whereby his body could be removed from the Valley of the Fallen, 55 kilometers (34 miles) northwest of Madrid.
Sánchez reaffirmed that his government was at all times complying with the law and working within the confines of the Constitution and the Law of Historic Memory, a legal framework designed to restore justice to victims of the 1936-39 Civil War, and a postwar purge.
Even though the exhumation of the former dictator was taking longer than initially thought and had encountered various stumbling blocks, including an appeal in Dec. by Franco's descendants, Sánchez said the government would stand by what members of parliament had supported, which was to exhume the ex-dictator's body from the Basilica where it is buried at the Valley of the Fallen, a colossal, triumphalist monument built by prisoners of war on the outskirts of Madrid.
With regards to Brexit the Spanish PM assured the government had contingency plans in place and that Spain and the United Kingdom were important social and commercial allies.
Most of Spain's tourists travel from the UK and as such an orderly Brexit with a deal in place was Spain's clear preferred option, Sánchez said.
By Fernando Garea and Patricia de Arce