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Speech by Acting President of the Government at continuation of Investiture Debate to the Presidency of the Government in Lower House of Parliament

Lower House of Parliament, Madrid, Thursday 25 July 2019

PEDRO SÁNCHEZ, Acting President of the Government.

Good afternoon, Honourable Members, thank you Madam Speaker. Today I will conclude the investiture proposal deriving from the elections held on 28 April and thus close off the commission I had the honour to receive from the Head of State and I deeply regret to observe that the parliamentary stalemate still persists.

Honourable Members, I set out on the first day of my speech that it was my intention to form a government, a progressive government based on one premise, which was to make it possible that the investiture of the Presidency of the Government of Spain did not depend exclusively on pro-independence formations. I have repeated this time and time again during the investiture debate and acted consequently since the outset.

And since that outset, to achieve this I needed an agreement with what I described as my preferred partner in this investiture - the parliamentary group of Unidas Podemos. And secondly, I required the abstention of at least one of the parties that called themselves constitutionalists. The sum of the seats of the Socialist Party, of Unidas Podemos, and of the other groups open to reaching an understanding, which I am deeply grateful to for their collaboration: the Basque Nationalist Party, the Regionalist Party of Cantabria, and also Compromís, amounted to a figure of 173 votes, three short of an absolute majority of the Lower House.

Hence, it was necessary for one of the other groups to abstain, and only two options existed: the abstention of one of the pro-independence forces, and on this question I want to acknowledge the declared will of Esquerra Republicana [the Republican Left of Catalonia], in exchange for nothing, to facilitate my investiture to the Presidency of the Government, or the abstention of the conservative groups that proclaimed at all times that they were constitutionalists.

If either the People's Party or Ciudadanos abstained, then the weight of the pro-independence votes ceased to be decisive. I wanted to prove to you, Mr Casado and Mr Rivera that what most concerned you lay in your own hands. You held the key, and if anything has been proven it is that the only thing you wanted was a pretext to then accuse us over the next four years of having an investiture conditional upon pro-independence parties.

But, in addition to needing the abstention of at least one of the conservative forces, as I said, there was a condition precedent, which was an agreement with the parliamentary group of Unidas Podemos. I have to say, first of all, that the investiture should have been guaranteed from the outset between the left-wing forces. Because the results from 28 April and 26 May made it patently clear what the will of the Spanish people was, which is that the government should be headed up by the Socialist Party.

Any sensible person knows that this is not a blank cheque, because in order to govern you need to approve a Budget, you need to pass laws and with the maths in Parliament, this requires agreements. The government would have always needed UP, not only for the investiture, but also to govern over the next four years. However, this agreement was not possible and I can say to you straight off that I regret this for two reasons: firstly, because a government will not be formed, which is important for Spain to have at this time, and secondly, because of the unprecedented opportunity that has gone in vain to incorporate, for the first time in the history of our democracy, a left-wing force to the left of the PSOE in the Government of Spain. I regret that this hasn't been possible.

I was always aware that reconciling two cultures and two traditions that were so different within one government wasn't going to be easy, which is why we proposed a formula that prevails in other countries in Europe, like Portugal and Denmark, social democrat governments with external support from formations to the left of them, in exchange for what, Mr Iglesias? In exchange for a programme, in exchange for forming policies that would benefit the people who most need them, as we have done during these last 12 months of cooperation.

However, I warned early on that the government programme was a question that was clearly secondary for you Mr Iglesias and hence, Honourable Members, this proposal was rejected.

I then proposed that the involvement of Unidas Podemos could be achieved, in addition to at a level of the government programme, in important responsibilities in the public administration, although not in the Cabinet, another proposal which, as you are aware, was rejected.

I then explored the possibility of incorporating qualified figures from the realms of Unidas Podemos in the Cabinet in line with what I have always advocated and which I also practised when I was elected President of the Government by this Lower House 12 months following a vote of no confidence, which was the incorporation of talent through independent profiles to the Cabinet, a proposal that was once again rejected.

I then declared that I considered that the presence of the leader of Unidas Podemos, Mr Iglesias, was the main obstacle to reaching an agreement and that by him renouncing this we could then achieve the only possibility that Unidas Podemos has called for since the start, a coalition government based on comprehensive negotiations, as we pointed out.

We then began comprehensive negotiations over the weekend prior to the investiture session. As regards the rest of the process, you have all been witnesses to this in virtually real time in this House.

But please allow me to make four observations before this lack of agreement reaches its final consequence.

The first observation is that there is a broad agreement on the social, ecological and labour programme with Unidas Podemos, including our proposals to combat job insecurity and unemployment, to defend young people in gaining access to housing, to combat child poverty, to protect pensions, to mitigate and adapt to climate change, our proposals to head up the technological revolution on an inclusive basis and to defined the social dimension of the European project and hence there has never been a problem as regards the programme that prevented an agreement being forged.

At the meetings and in speeches on this stage Mr Iglesias has not made a single proposal that was not contained in the investiture programme that I presented two days ago in the morning. Hence, the programme was never the problem.

The second observation is that if the programme was not the problem, then what was? Mr Iglesias said it here on this stage: the ministries. Last Monday, on this very stage he stated that he was not going to be humiliated by the proposals made by the Socialist Party, just a few hours before he had made his proposals, which you are aware of. We heard Mr Iglesias claim that he wanted to form part of the government to be able to control us, and when we saw his proposals we realised that he wanted to form part of the government to control the government. He conveyed a proposal to us that amounted to him controlling 100% of the revenue through the Ministry of the Treasury and 50% of the spending, with the exception of the security budgets, that is, home affairs and defence. That was the proposal made by Unidas Podemos, which, let's remember, is the fourth largest parliamentary force in this House, which would mean that Mr Iglesias' party, with 25% of the seats in the coalition, would control 80% of the social spending of the government.

Over recent days, Honourable Members, we have made successive proposals with the aim of Unidas Podemos participating in a coalition government, and of this being a viable, effective government that could work. Given the challenges we are facing, I believe that it would have been sensible to have a plural government, but with a single, coherent and united body leading it.

The proposal to Unidas Podemos was based on the creation of a Vice-Presidency of the Government, focused on one of the main cornerstones of the political project that I had the honour of presenting to this House, which is the portfolio of social justice. This Vice-Presidency of the Government would be directly in charge of social well-being policies, important policies for a progressive project, that we want to embrace in the fight against poverty, in the National Long-term Care System, and in social service, to name but a few areas.

And together with that, we offered three ministers of Unidas Podemos to head up departments of great political importance for a progressive force. In the first place, the Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs, the aim of which is to boost, as I said in my investiture speech, one of the most admired and envied systems in the world and which is facing important challenges, as I set out in my speech. Secondly, the Ministry of Housing and Social Economy, since housing is one of the main barriers to emancipation and to enhance social justice in our country. And finally, the Ministry of Equality, because feminism is key, it is at the heart of a political project that calls itself feminist. Hence, four portfolios with great social content, one of them with the status of Vice-Presidency of the Government of Spain. The proposal was, as you are aware, unfortunately rejected.

That was the last proposal of many that we have made over recent days, proposals that we understood were areas of interest for the parliamentary group of Unidas Podemos and whereby they had qualified people to carry out this task and who I am convinced would have contributed to and provided a great service to this country. In each one of these proposals, many of them previously demanded by Unidas Podemos in the negotiations and yet subsequently rejected by them after having been accepted by the Socialist Party, we have demonstrated a noble will to forge an agreement. On development cooperation ,the 2030 Agenda, child poverty, the social economy, the demographic challenge, universities, culture, science, agriculture, proposals for the formation of a coalition government that Mr Iglesias rejected one after another.

Never before, Honourable Members, since the restoration of democracy in our country, has a potential agreement between left-wing forces of different parties gone so far. Never. I know of no precedent in which a leader has felt humiliated at the offer of a Vice-Presidency of the Government or of a ministerial position in the Government of Spain. Does anyone consider it humiliating to be the Vice-President of the Government for Social Rights? Is it humiliating to be the Minister for Health and Consumer Affairs of the Government of Spain? Is it humiliating to be the Minister for Housing or for the Social Economy? Is it humiliating to be the Minister for Equality of a progressive government? Perhaps it is not what you wanted, Mr Iglesias, but our proposal has been respectful, correct and sensible.

This offer is more than reasonable taking into account that in your formation, as a result of its youth, there is no-one with any experience whatsoever in State-level management and that governments, by definition, must be executive and compact. Hence, my second observation, Honourable Members, is that there was no humiliation; there was an offer of a social Vice-Presidency of the Government of Spain and the portfolio of several ministerial departments of lofty social affairs. My third observation is that I aspire, and the Spanish people have observed this, to head up the Government of Spain, but not at any price or with any government. I must be convinced that I am heading up a plural and diverse team, but all rowing in the same direction, and I must have the certainty that each departmental head has the right ability to manage it. You cannot put the Public Treasury, the money of the Spanish people, in the hands of someone that has never before managed a budget. I may make the right or the wrong decision in choosing someone but I am trying to form a government of competent and capable people that can head up their respective departments to the benefit of all Spanish men and women.

The only thing that occurs to you, Mr Iglesias, to appease the clamour of those who from within or without your organisation call for an agreement is to make a proposal in extra time just before this second investiture vote saying that you want a Ministry of Work to repeal the labour reform and raise the minimum wage, as if you didn't know that the repeal of the labour reform and the raising of the minimum wage depend on a body that is collegiate, which is the Government of Spain, and also on you, the Honourable Members of the legislative power.

You continue not to understand, Mr Iglesias, that we need a government, one that is coherent and united; not two governments in one government, Mr Iglesias.

On Monday, Mr Iglesias said that if an agreement was not reached such as the one he demanded, and I quote this textually, "I would never become President of the Government". I will tell you something, Mr Iglesias, if in order to be President of the Government I have to renounce my principles, of I have to form a government knowing that it won't be useful to my country, then you are right, I won't become President of the Government now. I will renounce things that are very dear to me before renouncing my principles and if you force me to choose between the Presidency of the Government of Spain that will not serve Spain or choose my convictions, then I have no doubts whatsoever; I choose my convictions. I choose to protect Spain.

Governing, Mr Iglesias, means treading on firm ground. Governing means changing from "They don't represent us" to wanting to represent many people with the aim of wishing to be useful to people and, above all, to those who are suffering the most. Governing means embodying the reality. The useful left is the one that wins and serves the people and changes things. What use is a left wing that loses even when it wins?

What are you going to do, Mr Iglesias? Is this what you want for Spain, just because things haven't panned out how you tried to impose them? Is that your threat? Will you unite, albeit through abstention, your vote with that of the right and the far right to once again prevent the creation of a progressive government? Will you do that once again, Mr Iglesias?

My fourth observation, Mr Rivera, Mr Casado, is that I belong to a party that is proud of its 140 years of life, a party that does not hide from the reality, that aspires to transform it, which is why we are a government party, a party that works each day through thousands of local councils and regional governments throughout the country, a party that unites Spain because it is present throughout the country, Mr Casado, in the countryside, in the cities, in Catalonia, in the Basque Country, in the two Castiles, in the islands. I wouldn't aspire to be a candidate to head up the government of my country if my party was not capable of having a single local councillor of more than 2,600 elected in the Basque Country, Mr Rivera. I would not dare to be a candidate to head up the government of my country if my parliamentary group in the second largest autonomous region in the country, Mr Casado, in Catalonia, had only one MP from among the 48 MPs elected.

Honourable Members, I have sought to remain loyal to my principles; I have complied with my commission, both from the Head of State and from our citizens on 28 April, to stand in this investiture debate, it is an honour to have done so on behalf of the more than 7.5 million Spaniards who voted for the Socialist Party on 28 April, and it is also an honour and I am proud, on behalf of many others who with their own ideological preferences would like to see a government in Spain, and allow me on this point to directly address our citizens as a whole, those who are watching us from their homes to say the following to them: Spain united has overcome worst crises in its history and it will do so again this time; Spain united has defeated the worst predictions and prophecies and it will do so again this time. Spain united has overcome the greatest challenges and it will do so again this time, whatever may happen today.

Whatever happens in this vote, Spain can count on the Socialist Party for this, for uniting society and never for dividing it. It is in the name of Spain, as the most voted for force on 28 April that I ask you for your trust to be invested as the President of the Government, the greatest honour that I can take on as a citizen, as a Spaniard and as a democrat.

 (Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation