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Interview with Acting President of the Government on Cadena SER

Monday 15 July 2019

PEDRO SÁNCHEZ, Acting President of the Government

Aimar Bretos.- How are you?

President of the Government.- Well, the truth is that I am surprised and somewhat frustrated at what happened last Friday when I found out from the media that Mr Iglesias seems to have broken off, to all ends, the negotiations with the Socialist Party?

Bretos.- Do you feel they have been broken off?

President of the Government.- They have been broken off by Mr Iglesias; that has been acknowledged and there will be consequences. The truth is that this is the confirmation that Mr Iglesias has not moved from his radical position of proposing a coalition government without any type of veto, in his own words, and we are already starting to feel the consequences of this.

I find this hard to put into words, but it seems to me that Mr Iglesias is using a rigged party consultation to justify voting against my investiture and to justify this refusal, thus adopting the same position as the far right at the upcoming investiture session.

Bretos.- And will you try and heal these wounds in the days leading up to the investiture session or do you feel that this dialogue has definitively broken down?

President of the Government.- I believe that there are many things to say in relation to the unilateral consultation process that Mr Iglesias has invoked. Firstly, that the proposal the Socialist Party made is not contained in this consultation process is false. Look, we have made as many as five proposals.

The first was a government made up of just the Socialist Party with outside support from Mr Iglesias' party. The second was a cooperation government with people in the upper ranks of Unidas Podemos. The third proposal was a government which could include some independent people of renowned prestige from Unidas Podemos within the Government of Spain.

The fourth was to rewind and go back to the beginning, and set up teams to negotiate the content and the fifth was the proposal I made to him last Thursday in our phone call and which I haven't mentioned to date, in which I offered for the first time in 40 years of democracy to include certain qualified people from Unidas Podemos to head up some of the departments that comprise the cabinet.

He said "no"; not only did he say "no" in this private conversation, but the following day in an interview with RTVE, he described this proposal as "idiotic", in those words, and in turn forced a party consultation which was announced that afternoon to the media.

So, we are talking about the doors being closed tight on any form of negotiation, a unilateral breakdown of talks on the part of Mr Iglesias and, in short, what I really believe we are witnessing is a show by Mr Iglesias to justify his refusal to back my investiture for the second time on 23 July, just as he did back in 2016.

Bretos.- What type of profile would you have offered him to bring to your government?

President of the Government.- I believe that one of the main things I got right was precisely to try and incorporate qualified individuals, professionals in different areas that were important to me.

For example, in ecological transition we have someone who is very highly qualified, not only in Spain by all groups related to the energy and ecological sector, but also on the international stage.

This is someone who moves like a fish in water at all the conferences and congresses on climate change, and that is Teresa Ribera. Teresa Ribera is a PSOE party member, she has worked for the party, but above all she is well-known for her professional work outside of the scope of the party and is the person who currently holds the portfolio for the ecological transitio

Mr Guirao is someone with a proven track-record, with a great reputation in the world of cultural management and he is the Minister for Culture. Is he a PSOE party member? Yes, he is, but he is not well-known as a PSOE party member, but is well recognised around the world, whether he be left or right wing, in the field of culture.

Hence, the offer I made him was a sincere and honest offer because it is true that there are some issues on which Mr Iglesias and the PSOE can agree on, although there are many others that we cannot and consequently, I believe that this offer I made last Thursday to Mr Iglesias is something unprecedented in the history of our democracy, an offer like this to a party which, in this case, is the fourth largest political force in our country, which has lost a number of seats and a significant number of voters. Despite this, he still said "no" to me.

Not only did he say "no" to me, but on Friday he also described this proposal as "idiotic", and forced a vote which, in my opinion, is an attempt to justify his refusal. Just look at the consultation made by Mr Iglesias, and I am not going to go into the personal attacks made by leading members of his party, whether Teresa Rodríguez or Ramón Espinar, saying that they don't have a pass. This does not conform to the reality.

The proposal made to the PSOE is not the proposal that we made to Mr Iglesias, not the last one, nor the next to last nor the one before that; in other words, it goes right back to the first proposal the PSOE made to him. Hence, I feel that Mr Iglesias has shut himself into a radical position and consequently we are simply engaged in a show to justify what in my opinion is unjustifiable, which is to vote against the candidature of the PSOE to the investiture of the Government of Spain, and, moreover, to do so in agreement with the far right.

Bretos.- Are you resigned to the fact that they will vote against?

President of the Government.- It never rains but it pours. This is an experience I already had back in 2016, which will unfortunately happen again in 2019, and I believe that everything is taking the same course, and following the same logic. It means calling a consultation process with a question which is absolutely false in my opinion because it doesn't fit into the reality.

I repeat, the proposal made to Mr Iglesias by the PSOE is not contained in that consultation and hence I feel that we should all now act like grown-ups. I have got the message. Mr Iglesias has rejected incorporating qualified individuals from the realms of Podemos into the cabinet and hence I understand that we either do what he says or we find ourselves facing a vote against from Mr Iglesias at my investiture session.

Bretos.- In this proposal to incorporate qualified people from the realms of Podemos, as you call it, does that rule out political leaders from Podemos, like Pablo Iglesias and Irene Montero - these people who under no circumstance you propose to include in the cabinet?

President of the Government.- Just look, I don't like vetoes, but nor will I accept impositions. I believe that one of the main tasks and responsibilities of a President of the Government is to choose his own team. Names may be proposed to me, of course, but I should have the power to decide on the people who will form my cabinet.

Bretos.- Has Pablo Iglesias sought to impose his presence as a condition precedent for voting for your investiture?

President of the Government.- Look, let me put it another way for you. I have said this both in public and in private. I have always had serious doubts about including Mr Iglesias in the government and I will tell you why. Because we are both leaders of two different political organisations, and although it is true that we agree in the area of some social policies, we have tremendous differences on issues of great importance that will be debated over the course of this next term of office, such as the issue of Catalonia, for example.

Hence, I have always felt that it is better to get around these disagreements between the two organisations by doing what I have always proposed; which is forming a government of cooperation with the PSOE within and Unidas Podemos outside. They said "no" to this, so, let's include some people with a sector profile in the Government of Spain, but with a clear sector profile.

Bretos.- Did you get to name names?

President of the Government.- No. Never. That is another of the issues that I would even call a disgrace. When you discuss an agreement at a grass-root level, the first thing you must do is reach that agreement. What you can't do is focus on an approach regarding the first option, which is what Mr Iglesias advocates, in other words, a coalition government, with no vetoes on the team members, as Mr Iglesias says, and with a certain programme. Do you know what the programme is that Mr Iglesias has agreed with us? Of course not, we haven't even sat down to talk about the content. Are you aware of the team that Mr Iglesias proposes to form part of the government? Of course not; he hasn't even thought about it yet.

In short, I feel that this is a rigged process to simply justify something that we are going to see next week, which is for Mr Iglesias to stand up in the Lower House of Parliament to vote "no" to the investiture of the PSOE.

Bretos.- Are you disappointed with Mr Iglesias?

President of the Government.- No, I am not. I don't have either the ability or the duty to do so, nor is it expected of me. It simply show a reality, and that reality is that Mr Iglesias has been stuck in a radical position since the outset; that the PSOE has made up to five different proposals, from a government with just the PSOE, to a government with outside support from UP, to the incorporation, I stress, for the first time in 40 years, by a candidate to the presidency of the government of another political force to share this government, which, by the way, still does not guarantee a parliamentary majority in the Lower House of Parliament to this government, and what happens is that this proposal is rejected with the label "idiotic" by Mr Iglesias, who then forces a consultation that is clearly designed to go where is goes, which means justifying the unjustifiable, which is that Mr Iglesias will vote "no" to the investiture, together with Mr Abascal, against a socialist candidate to become President of the Government.

Bretos.- If that is where we stand and you accept that Podemos will say "no", where do we go now? What will you do between now and Tuesday, or Thursday, to try and guarantee the necessary votes to push through your investiture?

President of the Government.- What I have always done. Spain needs a progressive government that does not depend on pro-independence forces. A progressive government is a road map for the left wing, to recover social rights, for the ecological transition, to restore labour rights that were undermined as a result of the labour reform, to rebuild the Welfare State, to recognise new rights such as the right to euthanasia. All of this is content, specific proposals that I propose to Unidas Podemos and that are contained in the Socialist Party manifesto. So, a progressive government.

It is clear that Mr Iglesias will say "no" to any formula that doesn't mean Unidas Podemos forming part of a government in the way he feels is right, but this equation has a second part, which is that the investiture of the Presidency of the Government of Spain must not depend on the pro-independence forces, and that is a challenge to the People's Party and to Ciudadanos, because these are two political parties that while it is true that they beat their chests stating that they are State parties, that they want stability in this country, that they want to forge State pacts - Mr Casado even says that he wants to stand by my side over the course of this legislature - but look, probably the first State pact that all the political forces could forge is to form a government in this country.

Bretos.- At this time, would you trust the PP and Ciudadanos to abstain to help facilitate the investiture?

President of the Government.- Well, I must say that I am quite pessimistic, firstly as regards Mr Rivera, who doesn't even answer my calls to talk, which is something I deplore, since it not only shows a lack of respect for our citizens, because our citizens are calling for us to talk, at the very least, but I also believe that it is exactly the opposite of what this country needs.

This country needs to forge cross-cutting agreements in key areas for the stability of our country, with a programme of a State government, because as well as social issues, which are undoubtedly important, this government that will be formed as a result of the investiture process to take place next week will face key issues that Spain has not seen for the last 40 years.

I tend to downplay the problem of Catalonia, but today in the media, in the written press, we can see how Mr Torra does not renounce unilateralism and continues to say that they will take that course again. Well, I don't know if they will take that course again or not, what is clear is that the Government of Spain must be ready for any eventuality and that eventuality requires, firstly, a government that is headed in a single direction, with strong internal cohesion, 100% united, to be able to tackle what could undoubtedly be a potential challenge to the State, once again.

Bretos.- As a result of the ruling on the 'procès' [pro-independence movement], do you fear that this would again cause a breakdown in the political and social harmony in Catalonia.

President of the Government.- It has already broken down, let's not kid ourselves about that.

Bretos.- Or get even worse then.

President of the Government.- The socialist government has tried to build bridges over these last 12 months, with Catalan institutions that are presently governing while seeking to become independent. And it is clear that the pro-independence movement continues not to renounce unilateralism, as I said, and that it continues to destroy co-existence in Catalonia, and that clearly the

State will have to act in the event that things go even further.

And these are the things that I have spoken about with Mr Iglesias, and that I have also proposed to public opinion. What a President of the Government must do is follow the general interest, he must head in a single direction, the government must enjoy internal cohesion on key issues that will define the balance of the legislature, such as the issue of Catalonia, and that is what makes my proposal to Unidas Podemos, which, I repeat, is a political formation that could give me more seats but not an absolute majority, to share power in a realistic, organised and sensible fashion a good option.

Bretos.- Specifically as regards the issue of Catalonia, Unidas Podemos offers to sign a document in which it undertakes to be loyal on the position set by the government you head up.

President of the Government.- It is obviously not a question of being loyal or not. The law itself can show you what it is that the President of the Government can do and what ministers must uphold or not. We are not talking about that.

We are talking, for example, about the fact that in the coalition government formed in the City Council of Barcelona, this is indeed made up of the Comunes - which is the Catalan branch of Unidas Podemos - and the party of Catalan socialists, an agreement has been reached on the management of the city of Barcelona. And the questions tied into territorial policy have been put to one side, set apart, since there is indeed a significant difference on this matter between the two sides.

This also seems to me to be a smart strategy at a local level, but at the level of the Government of Spain I am going to have to address, and hence, manage, the consequences of what might occur in Catalonia.

Bretos.- Do you fear that you may have to apply Article 155 again?

President of the Government.- I don't want to, but it is my duty to at least consider it.

Bretos.- Do you rule it out?

President of the Government.- I don't rule it out, but it is my duty to at least consider it. I hope I don't have to apply it. Moreover, just look over these recent weeks there have been things that have been said and that have appeared in the press, for example, by the Constitutional Court, that has clearly said that a permanent application of Article 155 is not a solution and nor is it constitutional.

Article 155 is a legitimate article that the State should use at such time as coexistence and the constitutional order of a certain region is brought into question

Bretos.- Did you listen to Artur Mas last night on TV3? He said that we would be better off with a government that is not after us than with one that, although it doesn't have any solutions to our situation, will not go after us. Do you envisage Esquerra, or Junts per Catalunya, abstaining in your investiture?

President of the Government.- I don't know, it would seem quite unusual, contradictory and a paradox even for the People's Party and Ciudadanos to vote against my investiture, those parties that say they are constitutionalist parties, that want to see State stability, while the pro-independence parties vote in favour of the President of the Government of Spain.

While it would be unusual and contradictory, just look, beyond all of this, I have always believed that the best way to combat the pro-independence movement is not only through legal and technical arguments, and through applying this constitutional article or law or another, but by being able to propose a regenerating, progressive, pro-European, modernising project at the hands of Spanish politics, as well as economically and socially.

And that is what the Socialist Party is involved in, in proposing progress with social justice, which is what our country needs and is the mandate that came out of the ballot box. The leading parliamentary force, which is the Socialist Party, has twice the number of seats of the second largest parliamentary force. It is true that the People's Party, Ciudadanos and Unidas Podemos can all vote against my investiture. That is their right, it is an option, but they would be taking the country to an absurd stalemate, because no other alternative exists.

Bretos.- The point we are at now, in my understanding, rules out Unidas Podemos ending up abstaining. Do you more or less accept that given the state of talks at this time, they will end up voting against next week.

President of the Government.- Well, not the state of talks, I believe that last Friday Mr Iglesias, as a result of his actions, responded to my last proposal to include some members of Podemos in the government and by calling a consultation which does not contain this last proposal and which, quite simply, is a repeat of what he did in 2016.

Bretos.- Why did you not come out last Thursday afternoon to say what you had proposed to Mr Iglesias?

President of the Government.- Because I didn't believe that it would cause or bring forward a consultation such as took place last Friday.

Bretos.- At no point in time did he say to you that he was going to call a consultation?

President of the Government.- He never said that to me, let me refer publicly to the fact that we know that Mr Iglesias had thought about calling a consultation - we saw that in recent weeks - but I never thought that he would do this so suddenly last Friday.

Bretos.- Have you proposed a consultation to the PSOE rank and file to find out whether they want a government with Podemos or not?

President of the Government.- I have to hold a consultation if I reach an agreement, If I don't, why would I force our members to take part in a consultation on something that does not exist.

Moreover, I feel that these consultations are an element that can legitimise your decision, but they can also delegitimise your decision if they are used in a twisted fashion, as Mr Iglesias is doing.

Bretos.- So, we are at a point where, from what I can see, we can rule out a favourable vote from Mr Iglesias; and also, from what you have said, from Mr Rivera, that only leaves the People's Party.

What will you try and do to ensure the People's Party abstains?

President of the Government.- I feel that more than just the People's Party, we must call for responsibility from all the political formations; there are no second chances here. I have read in the analysis in the media that Mr Iglesias and other political formations are playing at seeing what will happen in September. I want to be very clear indeed on this.

My candidate lapses in the month of July, after a failed investiture attempt it lapses and I will no longer be a candidate. The candidate is that person who is designated by the Head of State, in other words, the King, after a round of consultations, which is what he opened up some weeks ago.

Hence, what I have to make very clear is that the five offers I made to Mr Iglesias ran out last Friday, when he rushed into a unilateral consultation process in which he only makes his radical proposal or the clumsy proposal that he made to the Socialist Party - when I say clumsy I mean in regard to the manner of being explicit in relation to one of the five proposals made to him by the Socialist Party. Hence, what I can say is…

Bretos.- Isn't the last proposal you made on Thursday still on the table? Have you withdrawn it?

President of the Government.- I haven't withdrawn it; it has lapsed, in one fell swoop, at the hands of Mr Iglesias, who took it off the table, and hence I have nothing more to say on the matter.

Bretos.- You won't call him again?

President of the Government.- I repeat, I feel that what Mr Iglesias should respond to is the question of whether he is going to vote or not, together with the far right, on the investiture of a socialist candidate next week.

Bretos.- Should your investiture not prosper next week, you have said that "your candidature will lapse". I understand that you will continue to forge a majority over these two months to once again receive the King's commission. Or won't you?

President of the Government.- I could, but just look, I feel that I have been fairly flexible and reasonable in the proposal I made. As Acting President of the Government and candidate to the

Presidency of the Government, what I need is a government that caters for the general interest, a government that is not paralysed by its own internal differences, that is internally united and that, consequently, heads in just one direction.

That is the only thing I have proposed. I have said this to Unidas Podemos - which is our preferred partner - and I repeat, it is our preferred partner despite not even reaching an absolute majority with the support of Unidas Podemos.

Bretos.- Is it still your preferred partner right now?

President of the Government.- I think the question should be the other way round right now. Mr Iglesias has said that either this is done the way he wants or what is extremely likely is that he will vote against in the upcoming investiture session. I will tell you something else, Mr Bretos, there are a great many figures in Parliament with different ways of understanding things, but what is clear is that what Mr Iglesias is proposing is an agreement for a specific legislature with a coalition government in which he imposes the name of the people from Unidas Podemos that can form part of the cabinet.

Bretos.- With him as Vice-President of the Government, is that what he asked you?

President of the Government.- No, not at all, he has never asked for that; he has never explicitly stated that. But, I repeat, it is the capacity, the sole responsibility, the "I want and I can" of a candidate to the Presidency of the Government to design his own cabinet.

Names may be proposed to me but names may not be imposed on me because in the end, if there is a problem with a minister, then in an interview we have in the future, what will you ask me about? Who is responsible for what a minister does? Mr Iglesias? Or me, as President of the Government? The question is clear and its response is that you will find me responsible, as is only right and proper, because I am the only person responsible for forming the cabinet.

Is it democratically sound that a party which is the fourth largest political force and with which I cannot even hold an absolute majority tries to impose names of members of the cabinet on the leading political force? Does what is happening in La Rioja makes any sense, where Unidas Podemos, with only one seat, demands of the leading political force in La Rioja, which is the Socialist Party, that in order to vote in favour, and hence a change takes place in La Rioja after decades of a People's Party regional government, it wants to hold three regional departments? In exchange for a single seat? Is that truly the system we want? Is that how we understand democracy?

Just a few days ago, I explained that one of the main national agreements we need for the next legislature is an amendment to Article 99 of our Constitution, which governs the investiture because it is clear that there is no guaranteed outcome given our parliamentary fragmentation. In other words, there is not only a temporary problem, with a clash of personal, political and party interests, but there is also a structural problem, which is that due to the way in which the investiture process is designed, the governability of our country is not guaranteed.

Bretos.- Do the rules need to be changed for our politicians to ensure an end to this dynamic of stalemate politics?

President of the Government.- That is a good question, but just look, we could make it even more difficult, for example, if what happens in forming local councils takes place. The governability of local authorities was guaranteed on 15 June at the formation of the plenary session of the local authority. Either the formation that has the most seats and an absolute majority governs or the leading political force that was voted for in that town or city governs.

I am not saying we should do that in the Lower House of Parliament to form a government, but it is clear that we must provide a response. Moreover, there are autonomous regions, such as the Basque Country and Asturias, which have resolved this issue.

Bretos.- Would you be in favour of giving a 50-seat bonus to the most voted for party, such as happens in Greece, which they are now going to remove, and which Pablo Casado proposes?

President of the Government.- I believe that, with all due respect for Pablo Casado, this proposal is constitutionally dubious, first of all, and secondly, it has nothing to do with the investiture process, that is, what Mr Casado wants by making this type of proposal is to create a presidential regime in a parliamentary majority. So, no.

I defend the parliamentary system, I believe that the role of counter-parties is important, in other words, that Parliament exists, that the executive power exists and that the executive power is subject to the control and scrutiny of Parliament. Under the proposal made by Mr Casado, it is clear that any government would have an absolute majority, and hence, we would be saying that it is not under the scrutiny of Parliament. I believe that things are much simpler. What we must do is to make the path to the investiture and hence the formation of a government much easier and broader. That is something for the future.

Bretos.- That is something for the future, and let's head back now to the present. Let's return to Mr Casado. Will you call him again to ask for his abstention?

President of the Government.- Of course I will call all the political leaders so that…

Bretos.- Will you call another round of contacts?

President of the Government.- I feel I can perfectly well speak to them by phone. I feel I can talk to them in that way and urge them to adopt maximum responsibility.

Bretos.- And what do you think will change from last week, because Pablo Casado was very clear last week when he spoke about you, in your way of speaking, when he said "no is no"? That phrase will ring a bell. Do you understand the "no is no" of Pablo Casado?

President of the Government.- Well look, you always have to place things in context. Back in 2016, the People's Party went from having… In 2015, on 20 December 2015, the People's Party went from 186 seats to 123 seats. It was probably the largest decline, together with that of the UCD, in the democratic history of our country, in terms of the loss of social support.

Secondly, the justification for this fall is obviously related to a temporary aspect, which was the dreadful social response, in my opinion, to an economic crisis that had taken place over these last 10 years but, above all, there was a structural issue - corruption - which hugely affected the People's Party.

Furthermore, the difference between 2016 and 2019 is not only that today there are no cases of corruption that affect the party that is in government or that aspires to govern for the next four years. In addition, we have increased our number of seats, in other words, we have won millions more votes in elections held not only on 28 April, but also on 26 May, in which our citizens have clearly said that they want the Socialist Party to govern the country. But there is another question that I feel it important, which is that there was an alternative in both 2015 and 2016. At present, there is no alternative. Of course Mr Casado and Mr Rivera are fully entitled, together with Unidas Podemos, to vote against the investiture, but what alternative can they offer the country? What alternative? There is no alternative.

Hence, I believe that we must all look in the mirror and assume our respective responsibilities. Mr Iglesias will obviously have to assume his responsibility for choosing to vote "yes" or "no" in the investiture of a left-wing President of the Government, and, in the latter case, together with the far right. And the People's Party and Ciudadanos will have to assume their respective responsibilities, if they want the investiture of the President of the Government not to depend on the pro-independence forces.

Bretos.- Have you asked other stakeholders, such as business leaders and former politicians, to try and convince Casado?

President of the Government.- Not at all.

Bretos.- Did you really not know about the letter from the MPs and former MPs of the PSOE who abstained to prevent a third round of elections?

President of the Government.- I knew that there were MPs who were… with José Andrés Torres Mora heading them up. I knew that they were indeed working on a letter, but I only found out about the content of the letter from the media.

Bretos.- You hadn't previously read the letter signed by Ábalos and Lastra?

President of the Government.- No, I hadn't read it, but what I can assure you is that I did indeed know that Ábalos and Lastra were going to sign it.

Bretos.- That letter stated that the abstention in 2016 was honourable. Do you consider that to be the case?

President of the Government.- I repeat, I believe that what is important is to put these positions on voting by a political party at a certain time into context, and the current situation is not the same at that of 2016 at all, not in relation to the question of regeneration or in relation to the unequivocal support that our citizens have given to one party and to another. And as regards the alternatives available, there are clearly none at this time.

Hence, since there are no alternatives, what I would ask from the political forces of the PP, Ciudadanos, and Unidas Podemos, in that order, let's say, of seats, is that they all assume their own responsibilities and do not block the formation of a government.

Bretos.- That is what you ask from them and what you would like them to do. Do you think they will do that? Let me ask you that another way, are you closer to a failed investiture today than last Thursday?

President of the Government.- But a failed investiture leads us to a stalemate. Let me stress that if my investiture lapses, then my candidature lapses nest week, and consequently there is no candidate to the Presidency of the Government. It will then fall to the Head of State to decide, and hence all of the political forces will have to make a movement.

What I can say to you is that I have assumed my responsibility; I have offered Unidas Podemos up to five different possibilities of collaboration. The last is unprecedented in the political history of Spain, which is to include some ministers in my cabinet. But they said no to that as well.

Bretos.- Under no circumstance would you go a little further in this offer to Unidas Podemos in this last week that remains before the investiture debate?

President of the Government.- I believe that, in short, I am a grown-up, I know how to understand messages and don't need to be told twice. Last Friday I heard Mr Iglesias describe this proposal as "idiotic"; he textually described it as "idiotic" and, in the end, forced a party consultation that did not contain any of these proposals, these four proposals, except the first one, which Mr Iglesias made at the start of the negotiations, and hence what I can say to you is that on that same day all of the proposals made by the Socialist Party to Unidas Podemos lapsed.

I am not in that position now, I am in the position whereby I am waiting to see what Mr Iglesias will do, to see whether he will vote with the far-right against the investiture of a socialist President of the Government.

Bretos.- Do you agree with Errejón when he said today in El Mundo that there is room for another progressive left-wing force?

President of the Government.- I believe that in the realm of Unidas Podemos, in the electoral social realm of Unidas Podemos, what they could do is reflect on whether they want to be a useful political force for the left wing or a force that simply goes against the majority of people, of social movements. Not only do you have Unidas Podemos but the left wing is also represented by the Socialist Party, and what the left wing is waiting for is a progressive government.

It is very striking that over the last few weeks we have been unable to sit down with Unidas Podemos to discuss social inequalities, gender equality, ecology or labour rights. We have not been able to do any of that.

Bretos.- And they reproach you for the fact that until 8 July you did not send them a document of your manifesto and that, furthermore, you sent this first of all through the media, in other words, they found out through the social networks, 71 days after the elections.

President of the Government.- Yes, here everyone can complain about whatever they want, but look, the Socialist Party has been very respectful of the election processes. On 28 April, we held the general elections, on 26 May, we held the local, regional and European elections and the Socialist Party won once again, on that occasion by an even greater margin; and what we have done is respect the processes to form, firstly, the local councils, by 15 June, and then many of the regional governments, which has even only taken place this last weekend, for example, in the case of the Regional Government of the Canary Islands; and hence it is very clear that the month of July is the month in which the Government of Spain must be formed.

That is what the Socialist Party has done. That is what I propose to the political forces and what I would ask from them is responsibility. I have assumed my responsibility, which was to offer as many as five proposals to Mr Iglesias to reach an understanding between the Socialist Party and Unidas Podemos, and they have rejected all of them.

Bretos.- And do you fear that this breakdown between the left-wing parties, or the progressive parties, will lead to fresh elections?

President of the Government.- Just look, let me put it to you another way. How many seats do we have between Unidas Podemos and us? 165; while an absolute majority is 176, because Parliament is comprised of 350 MPs. So we are already working on foundations that are truly not very sound whereas if Mr Iglesias and the Socialist Party had 176 seats in total, then we would indeed be able to offer a clear reply to your question.

Bretos.- But you were aware of that total two weeks ago when you tried to negotiate with Unidas Podemos.

President of the Government.- That's right, which is why I am saying that Mr Iglesias is my preferred partner, but in all honesty I cannot understand very well this demand to impose names for the cabinet of a government that might not even prosper in the investiture because we don't yet have the numbers to guarantee this. And I insist, what I want is a progressive government that does not depend on the pro-independence forces. That does not mean that I don't want to talk with the pro-independence forces to resolve the issue of Catalonia.

Bretos.- Don't you want the pro-independence forces to abstain?

President of the Government.- No, I don't want the investiture of a President of the Government of Spain to depend on pro-independence forces; they can do what they want but I don't want to depend on them; and that is something that the People's Party and Ciudadanos question. Because obviously if they talk about State responsibility, about being constitutional parties, what I would ask from them is very straight-forward, since there is no alternative that they should at least think about the possibility of abstaining and thus facilitating the formation of a government without the pro-independence forces being decisive in that.

Bretos.- If the People's Party, talking about the pro-independence forces, said, "Right now, we will abstain in the national investiture if you abstain in the investiture in Navarre and do not create a government that depends on the abstention of the pro-independence forces", would the Socialist Party of Navarre be prepared not to form the Regional Government of Navarre?

President of the Government.- One thing should not be confused with the other…

Bretos.- Pablo Casado does draw an analogy there…

President of the Government.- That is like if I asked Mr Casado to allow the leading political force to govern in Madrid, or in Murcia, or in Castile and Leon, where the Socialist Party won and is the largest political force. I fear we would enter into a never-ending loop.

Just look, let me tell you something, there will be a right-wing electorate and there will be a progressive electorate that does not like the formation of the governments that are being made in some autonomous regions and local authorities. People vote to form governments and in general what they like is to see a government formed by the most voted for party, for the party that has won the elections, but anyway, that is the parliamentary reality we have in this country. That is legitimate and I am not going to argue about it. People may like, to a greater or a lesser extent, the governments that may be formed in Madrid, in Murcia, in Navarre and in our regions of our country, but at least they have a government. In Spain, if the Socialist Party is not successful in the investiture, then unfortunately it will not be possible to have a government.

Hence, I repeat, I may talk with Unidas Podemos, although even that will not guarantee me the investiture, but I repeat, we would still not have an absolute majority, but anyway, I have indicated Unidas Podemos as the preferred partner of the Socialist Party, but the People's Party and Ciudadanos must also assume their own responsibilities to ensure that the investiture of the President of the Government of Spain does not solely and exclusively depend on what Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya and Junts per Catalunya decide.

Bretos.- We read this morning in the daily newspaper El País, on the front page, I imagine you will have read this as well, a tremendously striking figure, which is that young Spanish people are earning less now than they did a decade ago. What would you do if you are voted in to reverse this?

President of the Government.- Well look, some of the things that have surprised me a lot that Mr Iglesias has not called for over these 12 months of cooperation between the socialist government and Unidas Podemos. The minimum wage is a good measure, above all for the young people of this country.

Bretos.- That is down to Podemos. Isn't that right?

President of the Government.- I don't care, its swings and roundabouts. The reality is that those workers on a minimum wage are now collecting 900 euros. So, with a rise of 23%, this is a good measure for our younger workers. We have also proposed a Budget Agreement, this is in the Unidas Podemos manifesto as well as the Socialist Party manifesto, and that is something that I am committed to pushing through.

The approval of an Intern Statute, to do away with the exploitation and lack of security in employment relations, above all for the younger people in our country. And finally, I believe that we must incorporate access to housing as a right and make and give a definitive boost to public housing, whether rented or owned, for young people during this term of office. This will also be one of the proposals I lay on the table in my investiture speech.

Bretos.- There is a week left until that speech. Who will you call first in the coming hours or days?

President of the Government.- The order is not important, I will call all three political forces in order to help facilitate the governability of this country, who can then work in the opposition or forge State pacts with me, as Mr Casado mentioned, or Mr Iglesias, who wishes to push through certain social proposals with the socialist government; but there should at least be a government. Let's not be compelled to an August and a September in which there will unfortunately not be a candidate invested by the Head of State to negotiate his parliamentary support and push through an investiture.

Bretos.- If the King asked you to do that, I understand that you would.

President of the Government.- Just look, for me to think about what would or could not happen in August or in September is simply irresponsible. My obligation, my duty, because that is what I have been instructed to do by the Head of State, and I also have the support of the ballot box as the leading political force, is to push through the investiture in the month of July. Why should we wait until August or September if we can push through the investiture in the month of July? Many of these problems that you have laid on the table, for example in relation to young people, and also in relation to gender inequality, or social inequality in a much broader sense, require urgent measures to be taken.

Here we should remember why snap elections were called on 28 April, because the pro-independence forces, together with the conservative forces, voted against a social National Budget.

I stood in the elections saying that the first measure I was going to bring to the table was to present a social Draft Budget for our country and that continues to be urgent and important for the Government of Spain for the next four years, to push through a social Budget. In short, I would like the other three political forces to also assume their responsibility.

Bretos.- Pedro Sánchez, Acting President of the Government, candidate for re-election, good luck. Thank you very much.

President of the Government.- Goodbye.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)