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Interview with Acting President of the Government on Telecinco news

Headquarters of Telecinco, Madrid, Thursday 25 July 2019

PEDRO SÁNCHEZ, Acting President of the Government.

Pedro Piqueras.- A very good evening to you all. The Acting President of the Government, Mr Sánchez, is here with us. A very good evening and welcome to Telecinco news. The President of the Government is here with us at the end of a day in which his candidature for a new mandate has been defeated in the Lower House of Parliament.

(Video-clip of investiture session)

Piqueras.- So, tomorrow the Speaker of the Lower House will inform the King at Zarzuela Palace of the result of the vote. By the way, you only needed more votes in favour than against, but even that wasn't possible in the end, was it?

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- It wasn't possible but that doesn't mean that we have to throw in the towel, which is the main message I would like to convey.

PIQUERAS.- What does "not throwing in the towel" mean exactly; what message would you like to pass on now?

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- It means that it is true that Mr Iglesias, for the second time since 2016, now in 2019, has prevented the formation of a progressive government in our country, but that doesn't mean that I am giving up, or throwing in the towel. Quite the opposite, I feel that all the political parties, mainly the four political parties that stood in the elections at a national level - the Socialist Party, the People's Party, Ciudadanos and Unidas Podemos, must reflect on the events and unblock the stalemate.

PIQUERAS.- And how do you feel personally after this failure in the House?

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- Personally, I feel frustrated. In the sense that I clearly think that Spain needs a government. In social and economic terms, as regards democratic regeneration and also as regards international challenges, we have many tasks ahead of us that greatly affect us. Not only on 31 October will the United Kingdom exit the European Union, but we will also have to negotiate a budget at an EU level and also at a Spanish level, which means that we need a government as soon as possible. So, it is true that I feel this frustration at a personal level, but I cannot allow this at a political level. I feel that from a political point of view, Spain needs a government as soon as possible to implement the many policies that our citizens need.

PIQUERAS.- The right wing accuses you of being the author of this failure. Is this failure yours alone, or a failure of the left wing in general?

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- I think that what we must answer for, firstly, is what each of our parties wants. I clearly assume my part of responsibility, which was to form a government. But what responsibilities were the People's Party, Ciudadanos and Unidas Podemos under? I believe that it was the responsibility of everyone to facilitate this investiture. I will obviously speak with all the political leaders to try and unblock this stalemate between us all and not lead Spain to fresh elections. On 28 April, and again on 26 May, our citizens clearly said that the Socialist Party must govern and they want us to govern Spain. Aside from that, I believe that we must all get back on to the path of responsibility. Quite clearly the People's Party and Ciudadanos must also help facilitate the formation of a government in Spain.

PIQUERAS.- Anyway, if the stalemate is not resolved, Mr Sánchez, what is true is that we are heading towards fresh elections and, at this time, a large part of the electorate, including left-wing voters, are somewhat disappointed with what has happened. They counted on the possibility of a government being formed today.

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- Absolutely, but the government must be united; it must be a government that works, a coherent government, a government with one leadership. I said this today on the podium in the Lower House in response to the impositions that Mr Iglesias tried to make of me to try and form a government in relation to the demands they made in many areas, in relation to the Ministries of the Treasury, of Work and Social Security, and also in regards to energy policy, aspects which affect the daily lives of many citizens from pensioners to companies and their competitiveness. I believe I have said that my task and my duty is to defend the general interest, to protect Spain and to propose a feasible government. Between my convictions and the demands that Mr Iglesias sought to impose, I clearly preferred to opt for my convictions, which are firstly to defend the general interest and to protect the common asset that Spain is.

PIQUERAS.- Apart from the goal, Mr Sánchez, are you self-critical of what has let you down, which is you inability to have managed to convince Mr Iglesias and the other groups?

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- Of course, I am very self-critical but just look, I feel that it is very important to think about what has happened. I feel it is very important to be aware that our citizens told us on 28 April that it was important to talk and fundamental to reach an agreement.

PIQUERAS.- That was the mandate.

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- You have to reach an agreement and to do so explore different paths. We have explored one. It is true that this is a cul-de-sac, but that does not mean that it is the end of the road, the end of the journey, and that we are forced to repeat the elections. I feel we need to return to the starting point and explore other paths. That is why I invite the three political formations to put our party interests to one side - the People's Party, Ciudadanos and Unidas Podemos - together with the Socialist Party, and between us all contribute to Spain having a government as soon as possible to unblock this stalemate.

PIQUERAS.- And what is your analysis? What has happened to fire up these three groups so strongly against you?

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- I think that they should analyse and assess the message the Spanish people sent them on 28 April. In some way, I have the feeling that they have not listened to what our citizens said on 28 April. I said this very clearly to them; I also said this in an interview with you some weeks ago. I wanted a progressive government that did not depend on the pro-independence forces. To achieve the first, it was clear that I needed to reach an agreement with Unidas Podemos, with Mr Iglesias. And to achieve the second, that is a government that did not depend on the pro-independence forces, I needed the support of the People's Party or of Ciudadanos. We were unable to achieve either of these things. But that does not mean that we cannot achieve it in the coming weeks and hence not force Spain into repeating the elections.

PIQUERAS.- Let's go to the Lower House because some interesting things have happened there, for example, Virginia Mayoral, an offer in extremis from Pablo Iglesias in the middle of a negotiation with the public. Tell us what happened.

(Speech by correspondent and video-clip of the investiture session)

Mr Sánchez, Mr Acting President of the Government. What did you feel when Pablo Iglesias made you this offer? Why didn't you answer him?

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- Firstly, one of incredulity. I believe we are talking about the investiture of the Presidency of the Government of Spain. That has a certain weight and level of formality, of respect towards an institution, and also of respect towards the Lower House, which should deserve to be considered by Mr Iglesias. I feel that Mr Iglesias got things seriously wrong today, as he did in 2016, which he has repeated in 2019, and I have the feeling that he is well aware of the mistake he has made and of the cul-de-sac he has led his party into. He has made a mistake and the truth is that we don't know why. It is true that I had offered a coalition government for a coherent government, with a single leadership and internally united. What I cannot allow is to have two governments in one. When Mr Iglesias stated, for example, that the health or consumer affairs portfolios were humiliating, or that running housing in a Government of Spain was humiliating, or running social rights through a Vice-presidency of the Government was humiliating. What did Mr Iglesias mean by that? I feel that Mr Iglesias has very seriously considered running a parallel government within the Government of Spain and that is something that I quite simply can't allow. Or indeed that Spain can allow. I believe that the offer has been responsible and respectful of Unidas Podemos and that, above all, it has been generous.

PIQUERAS.- They complain that you didn't offer them the Ministry of Work which they had asked for. Why wasn't it given to them?

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- Let's see, Podemos is an organisation with a little over five years of existence. Consequently, it is an organisation that has no experience in government, of management. Hence, proposing that it manage the National Budget, the Public Treasury of our country, taxation, or the Social Security system, when at this time we are facing a major challenge in guaranteeing the sustainability and dignity of pensions seemed unacceptable to me.

Quite another matter would have been starting to include them in the management of certain ministerial departments that were at least aligned with their social demands. And that is the offer I made to them over recent days, but it wasn't enough for them.

I believe that in reality Mr Iglesias has made a major mistake, and in reality I don't understand very well the reasons why they have not facilitated the formation of this government. And what I believe is that once again the four political forces, with the People's Party, Ciudadanos and Unidas Podemos, must reflect on how to unblock this stalemate and find other ways that do no lead us to elections that Spain does not deserve on 10 November. I repeat, Spain does not deserve this stalemate, Spain needs a government as soon as possible.

And the question that should be asked of Mr Iglesias, of Mr Rivera and of Mr Casado is what alternative are they offering? What is their goal? When Mr Casado and Mr Rivera vote against the formation of a government, what are they offering, fresh elections? When Mr Iglesias does not facilitate investing me as the President of the Government, what does he want, fresh elections and hence allow the three parties that make up the right wing to have a second chance? I feel that, I repeat, there are sufficient grounds for getting to work and not throwing in the towel.

PIQUERAS.- To continue negotiating this month?

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- To talk, to table dialogue, to agree between the four political forces on how to unblock the stalemate the country is in.

PIQUERAS.- This morning, when Mr Iglesias seemed to make this gesture of a new offer, this latest offer that we saw before, if you had had a few more hours, would there have been a chance at reaching an agreement or at least of negotiating one?

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- Just look, when Mr Iglesias says, "I want the Ministry of Work because I want to raise the minimum wage and because I want to repeal the labour reform implemented by the People's Party in 2012". Look, you don't need a minister from Podemos in the Government of Spain to do that. Because what you need to explain to the people is that a government is a collegiate body, it is a body through which all decisions that are taken mare made by all ministers that form this government. And you then need the support of the legislative power, of this House you now see on your screens.

Hence, Mr Iglesias is making the mistake of a novice: you cannot have two governments in one. You need a government that works, a coherent government in its actions, united in its functioning and not a parallel government that gives you the feeling that it is constantly recriminating the majority party, which in this case is the Socialist Party.

Just look, in my speeches, over the course of the investiture debate, I have been very clear; if we had forged a coalition government, the ministers chosen would not be ministers from either the Socialist Party or from Unidos Podemos, but rather ministers of the Government of Spain, because that is the question.

PIQUERAS.- If you agree, let's go to the headquarters of Podemos in Madrid. Arantxa de Fez, what are they saying there about what happened today in the Lower House.

(Speech by correspondent and video-clip at the headquarters of Unidas Podemos)

Are you willing to reach an agreement, to negotiate an agreement before the end of September?

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- What I can say is that what we need to do with the PP, with Ciudadanos and with Unidas Podemos is sit down and talk and see how we can unblock this situation. It is not my place to describe the decision that Mr Iglesias has taken; I respect the independence of his political organisation. What I can say to him on a personal level, is that I am deeply disappointed, because this is not the first time that this has happened, and furthermore, it has happened to me both times. It happened back in 2016 and now in 2019, and I don't understand the reasons why he has not facilitated the formation of a government in Spain today and furthermore that this be a government headed up by the PSOE. I honestly don't understand this, and moreover, I believe that Mr Iglesias has made a grave error and I also believe that he is starting to realise that he has made an error.

PIQUERAS.- In principle, you wanted a government of cooperation, quite simply, and then you made some concessions by allowing a coalition government, with even a Vice-Presidency of the Government and some ministerial departments for Podemos. They also, above all, Mr Iglesias, stood aside and didn't demand the Vice-Presidency of the Government as they had initially. How was an agreement not reached given these steps taken in the end? That is what many of us are wondering.

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- You will have to ask Mr Iglesias that. I feel that we have tried to make an offer, that as I said, is respectful, a generous offer in which we have acted from a position of truth and conviction. And we must now acknowledge that it didn't work. But does that mean it is the end of the road? Does it mean that Spain must go to the polling stations again on 10 November? I stress that it doesn't; I won't throw in the towel.

Look, this has been done to me twice now, in 2016 and in 2019, but that does not mean that I will throw in the towel. My responsibility as the leading political force in this country and as Acting President of the Government is to see Spain with a government as soon as possible. And the message I want to send out to the Spanish people is that I will work so ensure a government in our country as soon as possible.

PIQUERAS.- Mr Sánchez, while this debate went on in the Lower House with the vote that ended up in the failure of your investiture, we went out to the streets to listen to the people, to see what they are saying, what they feel, what they fear and what they expect. Let's listen to them now.

(Video-clip with people being interviewed)

After listening to them, I sense a certain concern among the Spanish people over the situation created.

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- Firstly, of course people are weary and fed up because Spain has gone through a very intense cycle of elections. An electoral debate deriving from this vote of no confidence of more than a year ago which brought Spanish political debate to a fairly intense moment in terms of the arguments and criticisms that have been adopted, in this case, by the opposition. That concluded with elections on 28 April, and then on 26 May. And consequently, I feel that the Spanish people were quite clear in terms of their preference to form a government and yet now they are somewhat disconcerted, and I share that feeling

Secondly, we are going to get to work right now, as from today; I am not going to throw in the towel because Spain needs a government as soon as possible. And I also want those people who have taken part in this programme to have that very clear.

And thirdly, let me add something else; I believe that we must be confident. I believe that if the political parties place the general interest first then we can reach an agreement to unblock this stalemate. And that is what I would ask from the People's Party, Ciudadanos and Unidos Podemos. I want to form a progressive government that does not depend on the pro-independence forces. And that will require us reaching an understanding with Unidas Podemos on those sector policies on which, I am sure, we can agree, and also that the People's Party and Ciudadanos do their bit to facilitate the formation of a government.

PIQUERAS.- Yes, we can see a certain weariness on the part of the people. I am going to ask you to listen and watch something now. These are the voice of the nationalists and pro-independence forces that called for loftiness from the Lower House, not to reject the possibility of a left-wing government, a coalition government.

(Video-clip with speeches in the Lower House of Parliament from Gabriel Rufián and Aitor Estebán)

So, that gives us the impression that things are seen here with more calm than in the Lower House and that things can be heard better, doesn't it? I don't know what you think about what they have said but it gives us the impression that those people who are most concerned by questions of State are precisely the nationalist and pro-independence forces. What do you think?

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- And that is the great paradox to see the People's Party and Ciudadanos who offer nothing more than a stalemate with their vote against, and the great paradox of a the party of Mr Iglesias, which has had the historic chance, for the first time ever in 40 years of democracy to be part of a government and seal the deal precisely on its participation in this government. Hence, I believe that Mr Iglesias has made a mistake and is now starting to become aware of the tremendous importance of the mistake he has made today in the Lower House. And I would add something else; whilst it is undoubtedly important to have a government, we need one that works, a government that can tackle the problems we face in our country related to employment, to the sustainability of pensions, to the digital revolution and to the impact that the education system has on our children, that is also related to equality, to the fight against social exclusion, and also closely related to the ecological transition, in other words to the adaptation to and mitigation of climate change. These were the five cornerstones of my investiture proposal, and what is striking is that, on the opposition bench, in this case a conservative opposition, these policies were not reproached. What is really striking is that in his speech Mr Iglesias only spoke about ministerial departments, he did not speak about policies, he did not speak about the negotiation process, and that is because the there is a broad agreement on content, except on issues that are more closely related to State policies, such as the question of Catalonia, from a sector point of view.

PIQUERAS.- By the way, Podemos always accuses you of looking for more support from, or the abstention or assistance of Ciudadanos and the People's Party, and, in fact, we have heard you on many occasions ask for support that we were sure, and you were sure, wouldn't be given, at least because of what one of them said, isn't that right?

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- But the question there is the proposal I made to the House, and that I also offered the Spanish people which is a progressive government that does not depend on the pro-independence forces. Not because I wanted to deny the vote of formations that are presently in favour of independence, like Esquerra Republicana [Republican Left of Catalonia], but because I believe that the investiture of the Presidency of the Government of Spain should not be solely and exclusively founded on these formations, regardless of how they end up voting. Those formations that say that are constitutionalists, that say they want to see the stability of the country, must also contribute and pitch in to facilitate the constitution of a government. The People's Party has not done this, nor has Ciudadanos, and hence it is not me saying to the People's Party and to Ciudadanos, listen, support me, not at all, I am simply asking them to allow the constitution of a government in Spain. What's more, I am convinced that if you asked the majority of citizens that voted for the People's Party and for Ciudadanos on 28 April, then they would say that they want to see a government formed, and for these two formations to help facilitate the constitution of a government.

PIQUERAS.- However, let's listen to what the President of Ciudadanos has said

(Video-clip of a speech by Albert Rivera)

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- I believe that Mr Rivera, and moreover, today has seen a new resignation from his executive committee, of someone with a centrist profile… I believe that his political project is suffering an existential crisis, a political project that defines itself as centrist, that looks to both sides, it looks to the left and it looks to the right, and yet Mr Rivera, since 28 April and also on 26 May only has one bent, which is a leaning towards the right. Hence, I feel that contributing to stability is also something that Mr Rivera should reflect on, which means forming a government in our country.

PIQUERAS.- You trust the offers made more by Mr Casado, President of the People's Party, who has offered, for example, to more or less uphold centrist policies in the country, and aside from that also offered you a series of State pacts.

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- And they are State pacts that I am willing to study and discuss with Mr Casado.

PIQUERAS.- Are your relations with Mr Casado better than with Mr Rivera?

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- Well, they simply don't exist with Mr Rivera because he has refused to meet with me and to speak with me, which seems to me, as I said in an interview with you a few weeks ago, deplorable, not only from the perspective of the mandate I was given by the Head of State, which has obviously lapsed today, but also in terms of pure formalism and democratic practice because, in reality, what our citizens are saying is that we must talk and reach agreements. Of course, I am willing to reach agreements with Mr Casado, but in order to reach State agreements we need a government and we need an opposition, and I repeat, I am not asking Mr Casado to applaud me or to support me, all I am asking for is that he facilitates the constitution of a government because when Mr Casado says "no", what is he saying "no" to, what is he proposing for Spain? Repeat elections? Proposing the investiture of the President of the Government of Spain founded fundamentally on the support of pro-independence forces that he is criticising and rejecting their political project? It seems to me that the new paradox we have seen today in the Lower House is that the two parties that define themselves as constitutionalists, that say they contribute to State stability are precisely destabilising the State through this refusal to support the investiture of the only political project available, because that is what the Spanish people have said, that what they want is for the Socialist Party to govern the State.

PIQUERAS.- Acting President of the Government, Mr Sánchez, we are going to end now, but I wanted to ask you about the rumours we are hearing, is it true that if you had formed a government today you would have signed up Manuela Carmena for a ministerial posting?

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- I have always been open to independents of recognised prestige, above all progressives; I had not thought about the former Mayor of Madrid, but she is clearly someone of the right pedigree who I appreciate personally and respect politically.

PIQUERAS.- So we can imagine so from what you have said.

PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT.- Yes, I wouldn't rule her out. I haven't spoken with her but she is someone who has the right sort of profile to hold responsibility in the Government of Spain. But, at any event, what is important is to have a government and, in short, this is the second time that Mr Iglesias has done this to me, but I won't throw in the towel. I feel that Spain deserves a government as soon as possible and what I want is for the Spanish people to know that I am going to get to work now to ensure that our country has a government as soon as possible.

Piqueras.- Mr Sánchez, thank you for coming on Telecinco news once again. Thank you and good night.

President of the government.- My pleasure. Good night.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation