Spain: Acting premier aims to form gov't by December

By Alyssa McMurtry

OVIEDO, Spain (AA) – Spain’s acting prime minister said in a press conference on Thursday that he aims to form a functioning government by December.

Pedro Sanchez of the Socialist Party was speaking at a press conference alongside Charles Michel, the President-Elect of the European Council and former prime minister of Belgium. Michel is making his rounds to meet with various European heads of states before he officially enters his post.

This was the first time Sanchez spoke publicly since signing a coalition agreement with the far-left party Podemos on Tuesday.

"The agreement between the Socialists and Podemos is exciting, it opens a new era of hope and understanding," said Sanchez, who had previously refused to enter into a coalition government with Podemos after elections last April.

Despite their agreement, the two parties still need the support of several smaller parties in Spain’s fractured parliament to form a functioning government. Between the elections in April and November, the parties lost a combined total of 10 seats.

ERC, a Catalan separatist party that could be key to Spain’s governability, announced it would vote against Sanchez’s coalition.

"We are appealing to the generosity of all other political parties, with only the exception of the far-right […] If it’s not this government, what alternative is there?" Sanchez said at the press conference.

If Sanchez is unable to cobble together enough support, Spaniards could be summoned to the polls again, for the fifth time in five years.

Michel congratulated Sanchez on his election victory and said he hoped to work with him in the European Council. According to Michel, the Council’s main issues going forward will be climate change, European cohesion, the economy, and Brexit.

"It’s clear that we have to do whatever possible to maintain an orderly Brexit," said Michel.

"We will defend the interests of Ireland’s border, but hope to continue to have a close relationship with the UK in terms of security and economics," he added.

When asked by Spanish reporters why Belgian authorities have not arrested or deported Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan separatist leader who fled to Belgium, Michel had no comment other than to point to the separation of judicial and political powers.

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