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Acting President of the Government on the national radio programme 'Las Mañanas'

Wednesday 6 November 2019

PEDRO SÁNCHEZ, Acting President of the Government

Interviewer: Íñigo Alfonso

Q: Pedro Sánchez, Socialist Party candidate to the Presidency of the Government, good day.

Acting President of the Government: Good day.

Q: Well, thank you for being here with us on the morning of Wednesday, 6 November, following your invitation to us to come here to Moncloa Palace. I understand, Mr Sánchez, that this case file opened by the Central Electoral Board is about to be closed.

Acting President of the Government: Well, we will appeal it. In fact, that has already been done. It is true that the Central Electoral Board is changing some of the traditional criteria of Spanish democracy over these last 40 years. All Presidents of the Government have been interviewed at Moncloa Palace. Hence, we will appeal against it and what we must now do is follow the rules of the game, which is what the Central Electoral Board has stated. And we have nothing else to add except to say that this appeal has been lodged and we will see how it pans out.

Q: After Monday's debate, do you have the feeling that a third round of elections in Spain is now closer after the repeat elections that will be held on Sunday?

Acting President of the Government: I believe that we have all been called to unblock this stalemate on Sunday. And if anything clearly came out of yesterday's debate, rather Monday's, it is precisely that there are only two options here - either you vote for the Socialist Party to form a government or you vote for the other political formations to prevent this.

There is only one political party that can guarantee this project, these ideas and this government, which is the Socialist Party. And all the market surveys substantiate this, one way or another.

And secondly, and this also came out in the debate, the proposal I made that if the Lower House does not reach an agreement to form a government, we should allow the most voted for party to govern, did not receive a clear and forthright response from the rest of the political formations, which remain mired in a stalemate, unfortunately.

Q: But, as a candidate, who do you want to govern with? Because in the debate, Mr Casado said "no" to you. And you have also put some distance between you and Mr Iglesias.

Acting President of the Government: Let's see. We have always said the same. And in the end I am accused of wanting to govern with the PP by Mr Iglesias. The PP says that I have made a pact with the far right. The far right says I have made a pact with the PP and with Ciudadanos. Ciudadanos says that I have made a pact with Mr Iglesias and with the pro-independence forces. And the pro-independence forces say that I have made a pact with the PP and with Ciudadanos.

The Socialist Party's plan is to form a progressive government, because we must provide a left-wing, progressive response to the challenges we face: the sustainability of the public pension system, healthcare - the reconstruction, in short, of the Welfare State. We must provide a progressive response to the international economic slowdown and to the crisis of co-existence in Catalonia.

All of these questions clearly require ideological direction and we are a left-wing party.

Secondly, it is also clear that we need coherence. We seriously disagree on certain matters with Unidas Podemos, such as how to resolve the crisis in Catalonia.

And thirdly, stability. You cannot be offered stability by pro-independence political forces. Clearly these pro-independence political forces also forced early elections back on 28 April by voting, together with the right wing, against a social Budget that was positive for Catalonia.

Hence, that is the Socialist Party's proposal: a progressive, cohesive and stable government.

Q: Pedro Sánchez, if you win the elections on Sunday, you will clearly look to the centre. You did this in the debate the other day. You proposed distancing yourself from Unidas Podemos.

Acting President of the Government: I believe that is where the Socialist Party has always been.

Q: Are you looking for a technical abstention from Ciudadanos and from the People's Party?

Acting President of the Government: Let's see. First of all what I am looking for is tactical votes. We asked for tactical voting to form a government because that is what we are talking about here. The main political problem here facing the country is a stalemate. There may be people who consider, who are listening to us, that "my main problem is pensions, unemployment or job quality". In short, the ecological transition and gender-based violence. Of course it is; these are problems. But if we don't have a government, how are we going to resolve these problems? Hence, I call for tactical voting, votes for the Socialist Party as the only guarantee that we will have a government as of 11 November, rather than see the imposition, once again, of a stalemate.

Aside from that, we are a government that has also offered a progressive response to problems. Does this mean that we are asking, for example, Ciudadanos and the People's Party to abstain to facilitate the investiture of the only possible government? So what if we are?

I heard Mr Iglesias, or rather, the branch of Unidas Podemos in Catalonia, say yesterday that in order to unblock the situation they are going to demand the release of the Catalan political prisoners. Firstly, that is an unfortunate categorisation in my opinion. And secondly, if it shows anything it is precisely that we seriously disagree with Unidas Podemos as regards how to resolve the crisis in Catalonia.

Q: If you win the elections on Sunday, who will you call on Monday? Mr Iglesias or Mr Casado?

Acting President of the Government: Let's see, I don't think the debate was planned in those terms.

First, what everyone must acknowledge is that we must not be forced in to a third round of elections, in other words, a stalemate must not be imposed. And hence, we will have to reach an agreement as to how to unblock this situation.

I proposed an alternative in this latest debate. I said, "listen, if no agreement is reached as to the formation of a government, then let the most voted for list govern". Because we cannot be in a situation where the rest of the political formations offer no response. Or is the situation that what Mr Iglesias is saying is that if I don't do what he tells me I must do then he will force a stalemate again by joining his votes with those of the right wing and the far right so that Spain does not have a progressive government? Because these are the questions that they must also answer. I already clearly stated that there will be no broad coalition with the People's Party.

It is true that Mr Iglesias always uses fear of a broad coalition to hide the harsh reality, which is that over these last four years he has voted on four occasions against the formation of a progressive government headed up by the PSOE. I believe that what are important are the policies, and as regards these policies we have always tried to offer a progressive response to these challenges we face. We have done that, for example, when we raised the minimum wage. We have done that when recovering the unemployment benefit for those over the age of 52. And we have done that when raising pensions, after the PP condemned pensions to 0.25% of [inaudible] in2017.

Q: But it is one thing, Mr Sánchez, to win the investiture and another to govern.

Acting President of the Government: Naturally.

Q: You need a majority.

Acting President of the Government: Of course.

Q: How are you going to approach governing if there is a technical abstention? Will you look to both the left and the right? Will you look to the left as a priority? Will you look to the right, to the centre? What is your plan?

Acting President of the Government: Let's see, we are a left-wing political party, that aspires to govern all of Spain with a left-wing approach. And you propose to me: PP, Podemos… Are the polls saying that I will have an absolute majority with Mr Iglesias' party?

Q: Not at this time.

Acting President of the Government: Ok, not a majority with anyone. So.

Q: In a multiple equation, you would.

Acting President of the Government: But listen. In an equation, when Mr Iglesias says this, what other parties is he including?

Q: I understand that the parties that signed up to the vote of no confidence. That would mean the path of the vote of no confidence.

Acting President of the Government: The pro-independence forces. As regards them, are you, or Mr Iglesias sure, I have heard him say this, that they will abstain and facilitate the governability of Spain? I feel that we should be a bit more honest in the analysis and also when adding up the figures. Because I feel that it is important, firstly, to convey that we must vote on 10 November because Spain needs a government, we cannot remain in this stalemate we have been in for some time now, and we must close off this interim phase of instability that Spanish politics has been stuck in for some time now. And secondly, we must allow a government, that is, that all the Spanish people can rest assured that when they exercise their vote on Sunday that they are aware that on 11 November we will unblock the situation.

And that is why I have proposed a solution. I will always look for a parliamentary agreement. The best parliamentary agreement for Spain, and also, let's say, for the sociological left wing of our country. And secondly, I feel that all the political parties should commit to unblocking the situation after 10 November.

Q: What is the best possible parliamentary agreement?

Acting President of the Government: Well, clearly the best agreement is a progressive agreement.

Q- Mr Sánchez, Ciudadanos and the People's Party came out of the debate with the idea that you don't rule out forging an agreement with the pro-independence parties. Do you want to reach an agreement with them?

Acting President of the Government: But that is what I am saying Íñigo, if we are talking about the People's Party and Ciudadanos, they say that I am going to reach an agreement with Mr Iglesias and with the pro-independence forces. But unfortunately, if we are going to elections on Sunday it is precisely because the right wing has chosen to force a stalemate. When there was no other alternative majority to form a government other than from the Socialist Party.

And Mr Iglesias and the pro-independence forces are saying that I have an agreement with the People's Party and with Ciudadanos.

In other words, neither one thing nor the other is true. And that has been made clear by us having to repeat the elections. What has been demonstrated is that a political stalemate has been imposed. What has been seen is that we either focus on voting for the only political organisation that can guarantee a government at this time, which is the Socialist Party, or unfortunately we will find ourselves in a stalemate again.

What we saw in the debate and in this election campaign is that all the parties have ganged up against the PSOE. And the PSOE stands up against the stalemate imposed by all the other political parties, because we must resolve this fundamental problem for the country, which is this political stalemate.

I repeat, let's make our votes count. Voting for other political formations is clearly useful, but not to form a government, rather to block the situation.

Q: From those words, I understand that you completely rule out staying at Moncloa Palace through the same channel as in the vote of no confidence.

Acting President of the Government: Let's see, the very same pro-independence forces are saying that they don't want to facilitate the governability of Spain. What they want is, let's say, to make the Spanish political system even more unstable.

Hence, I would clearly say to the pro-independence forces what I have always said as Acting President of the Government: we are a government that will always be open to dialogue, albeit within the law. And we must be aware that the premise we have in Catalonia at this time is to resolve the crisis, not of independence, but of co-existence.

What are Mr Torra and the pro-independence movement saying? That we must sit down with them. No, they must sit down with the other political forces in Catalonia that are not pro-independence in order to search for a new agreement, and find a new space for dialogue in which to resolve this crisis of co-existence. And the Government of Spain will always be willing to lend a hand in this regard.

Q: Mr Sánchez, if you receive less support and fewer seats on Sunday than in the April elections, what responsibility will you assume for that?

Acting President of the Government: I find it quite interesting that some right-wing political leaders are saying that. For example, Mr Casado has said that; it is quite strange that you have to take responsibility for being the leading political force that wins the elections. And I have great respect for Mr Casado; I would even say that I appreciate him and consider him capable of great accomplishments. And I don't consider him capable of beating the all-time electoral low he carved out on 28 April by falling to 66 or 65 seats. That is like saying that Mr Casado should have resigned 71 times because he lost 71 seats on 28 April. Or Ms Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo, who said the same thing; well she should have resigned five times, shouldn't she, because the People's Party dropped from six MPs in Catalonia to just one.

Let's be serious. I feel that what is important is, firstly, being aware that we are facing elections that the Socialist Party did not want. That we sought an investiture agreement with Mr Iglesias offering a coalition government, despite the doubts I had, with a vice-presidency of the government and three ministerial departments, which they rejected. And we are now in an electoral process in which the main dilemma that our citizens must resolve by voting is whether they want a government or would prefer to remain deadlocked.

I repeat, we now have a multi-party system. But this multi-party system must not serve as an excuse for a stalemate. There may be many parties but we only have two options: either a Socialist Party government or a deadlock imposed by the other political formations.

Q: If you end up with fewer seats, do you fear that some citizens may hold you responsible for the repeat elections?

Acting President of the Government: I feel we are all responsible for having to repeat the elections. I am clearly responsible for having to repeat the elections in the sense that I have advocated the general interest over the party interest, or even my own personal interest.

Could I be the President of the Government today? Absolutely. I could be with the support of Unidas Podemos and with Mr Iglesias as Vice-President of the Government with the backing of the pro-independence forces. But after the rulings handed down by the Supreme Court on events that unfolded when the People's Party was in power, what situation would the government be in right now? What capacity for response would the government have right now to the crisis of co-existence that prevails in Catalonia?

I repeat, we have serious differences on the issue of Catalonia with Unidas Podemos; as we obviously do with the pro-independence forces. Does that mean that we will build a wall and that we don't want to hold dialogue with them? No. We don't want to pour petrol on the fire. We are a political party and a government that wants to resolve this crisis.

But we want to do so based on various premises: the first is that the problem is co-existence and not independence. The second is that we must respect the law. And the third is that the independence movement in Catalonia must engage again with the part of Catalonia not in favour of independence.

If we have a strong government, then logically we have a greater capacity to resolve this problem.

Spain is facing major challenges in such areas as the economic situation, the ecological transition and digitalisation - which will have an impact on the job market, and also on the education system. And logically, also in the field of this crisis of co-existence. And all of this can only be resolved if we have a strong government. And only the Socialist Party can guarantee a strong government.

Q: I will now ask you about Catalonia.

Can you, as the Acting President of the Government, and the Acting Minister for Home Affairs, guarantee that we will see calm in Catalonia on Sunday, and on Friday and Saturday, and that the right to vote will be exercised without any type of disturbance from the [inaudible]?

Acting President of the Government: All institutions must guarantee this. I believe that - and this must be underlined - the coordination is extraordinary that we are seeing with the Mossos d'Esquadra [Regional Police Force of Catalonia], which we did have in 2017, when the People's Party was in power.

And we have logically also deployed a significant number of State law enforcement agencies to guarantee the normal development on an election day when what is important is our citizens and their votes. Aside from that…

Q: Do you fear incidents that could affect the election results of the Socialist Party?

Acting President of the Government: Let's see, I feel that the opposite is important. The question is whether all of the institutions and all the political leaders can guarantee the smooth development of election day. And I hope that we can because, I repeat - and, moreover, I have said this in other interviews - the criminal liabilities that may derive precisely as a result of what may bring this election day into question by some groups of, let's say, radical pro-independence supporters, are quite severe.

Q: Mr Sánchez, in the debate you clearly committed to bringing Mr Puigdemont to justice. Will you bring him to justice in our country and, if so, how do you plan to do that?

Acting President of the Government: Well, we are already doing that. We asked Judge Llarena, in this case, as the investigating judge, as did the Public Prosecutor's Office, to activate the European Arrest Warrant after we saw the ruling handed down by the Supreme Court. We are waiting to see what exactly the final position of the Belgian justice system is. But, at any event, that is the approach we are taking.

Q: Now, is that the State doing this or the justice system? You proposed this as an electoral commitment and now, as you know, the pro-independence movement is wondering how Mr Sánchez is going to do that. We have just had Laura Borras on talking about how Mr Sánchez is going to do this.

Acting President of the Government: As we have been doing. Who does the Public Prosecutor's Office depend on?

Q: Yes, yes, it depends on the government.

Acting President of the Government: Well there you go.

Q: Yes, OK. That is why this surprised the pro-independence movement, above all, that this came out in the electoral debate.

Acting President of the Government: Well, the pro-independence forces can use whatever expressions they want because they live in a parallel reality and create their own bubbles. But, in short, it is clear what we are doing and I hope that sooner rather than later Mr Puigdemont will be held accountable before the Spanish justice system, which is what should happen.

Q: Am I right in thinking that would be as of December?

Acting President of the Government: Well, I obviously have nothing to add as regards the workings of the Belgian justice system. But we are working on supplying all the information to the Belgian justice system so that this European Arrest Warrant can indeed be activated and Mr Puigdemont can be held accountable before the Spanish justice system, rest assured of that.

Q: Let me ask you about some other issues of interest that are primarily related to Catalonia. The Socialist Party, you mentioned this in the debate, supports the recovery of the criminal offence of the illegal calling of referendums. Why now, if it was the Socialist Party that repealed this law seven years ago? Why have you decided to bring it back?

Acting President of the Government: Because they are saying they will hold another one.

Q: And that danger didn't exist before?

Acting President of the Government: Yes, but look, what we have to do is increase room for concord and meeting points between the people of Catalonia and reduce room for confrontation. And it is clear that the holding of illegal referendums, which question the territorial integrity of our country, is an element of discord, of confrontation and of the entrenchment of the political situation in Catalonia. Which is a crisis, I insist, of co-existence.

I have said this on many occasions. On 1 October 2017, according to the figures of the pro-independence forces - which are not the figures that I believe because many people voted two, three, four or even five times at different polling stations; because there was no census - according to the figures of the pro-independence forces, around 43% of all the people on the census turned out to vote; in other words, less than half.

If we look at the elections held on 21 December 2017, almost 80% of the people on the census turned out to vote. And this 80% of the census voted as a majority against the idea of independence, backing political parties of a different colour, with a different approach as to what the status of Catalonia should be as part of Spain.

What do I mean by this? That Catalan society has clearly said, not just on one but on many occasions, that it wishes to remain part of Spain. How is quite another matter, but it wishes to remain part of Spain.

Hence, the problem is one of co-existence.

Q: Let me ask you now about the economic situation. 100,000 more people are out of work in Spain in October, registered on the lists of the Public Employment Service. Do you, right now, as Socialist Party candidate, rule out completely a recession in our country in the coming months?

Acting President of the Government: No international body is saying that. We are enjoying growth. Let's see, a recession - so that listeners can understand this - means negative growth for three straight quarters. That is not the case of the Spanish economy; it is not in that position. We are growing by more than the average.

It is true that, if we compare figures in year-on-year terms, which is how I believe we must do these things, from October last year to October this year, then there are around 430,000 more National Insurance contributors and 77,000 fewer people out of work. In other words, the economy continues to create jobs.

We are creating jobs at a year-on-year rate of around 2.3%. To put this in context, we are growing in terms of job creation at a faster rate than our economic growth. And then, as I said the other day, we will close the year with a public deficit of 2% of GDP when it stood at 3.1% in 2017.

Hence, I believe that we must respond to this slowdown in the international economy which - obviously because we are an open economy - affects us, since the decisions taken by Mr Trump in relation to the customs duties imposed on the European Union or on China or, for example, the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, all of this clearly affects us and slows down the international economic situation.

I believe that we must respond, firstly, with a thorough analysis of the precise situation of the Spanish economy, which is positive, in the sense that we have solid foundations to respond to this economic slowdown. And secondly, with fiscal discipline, which is what we are doing, combined with social empathy.

We are not going to impose cuts on the Welfare State. Hence, I feel it is important to place things fairly.

I understand that the opposition must overreact as they overreact on many other issues because we are days away from a general election. But your listeners should be aware, firstly, that the government doesn't want to fall into the trap of self-complacency, but nor does it want to be alarmist, neither one thing nor the other. I believe that at this time our economy is built on solid foundations, and that we must precisely look with moderation, I would say, at the positive situation of our economy in terms of its outlook in the near future.

Q: Mr Sánchez, will we go through a crisis or just a slowdown in the economy?

Acting President of the Government: What is the difference in your opinion?

Q: I don't know.

Acting President of the Government: Since you are asking me for an answer, tell me what the difference is between a crisis and a slowdown?

Q: Well, you know that the debate also revolves around words. Is this a slowdown or an economic crisis?

Acting President of the Government: But what is the difference in your opinion?

Q: I am asking you. What is the difference? Is this a slowdown in the economy, a hiccup in the economy, or is this a crisis? What is the opinion of the Acting President of the Government?

Acting President of the Government: I would say that we are looking at a slowdown in the international economy. But if you ask me the difference between a crisis and a slowdown in the economy, then I will ask you, that's all.

Q: Well, Mr Sánchez, when do you think we are going to drop below the figure of 3 million unemployed in our country? That was one of your goals when you took office.

Acting President of the Government: The economic forecasts point to us hopefully falling below that number of unemployed in this legislature. See how it is true that we need to address some transformations in our labour market. Our idea is to approve a new Workers' Statute, and also to correct some of the harm caused in the labour reform undertaken by the People's Party for example, I am thinking about sub-contractors, where there is a great deal of insecurity. And I think we also need to reflect on what we have done over these last 17 months.

In this time we have approved the Plan to Combat Labour Exploitation, which has allowed some 380,000 jobs to be regularised. We have increased social protection for the self-employed and have done this together with the most important and representative associations of groups of independent contractors. We have regulated overtime, which meant a lot of unpaid hours in Spain. This has caused some tension with business owners, but is now fortunately under way.

What I mean by this is that this is a government that publicly wants to regulate the fight against labour exploitation suffered in our job market.

And, just look, coming back to yesterday's figures, what we can see is that they are very encouraging figures as regards quality jobs in terms of permanent employment contracts and also full-time contracts, which stand at above 80%, and above 90% in some cases of all contracts signed over the course of this last year.

Q: Who will replace Josep Borrell in the government?

Acting President of the Government: That is a good question that I will have to think about. This will be an important loss but I feel that it is also good for Spain that the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs will become the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the European Union.

Q: But Mr Borrell, in principle, will become the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the European Union as from January, as there is a delay, I believe.

Acting President of the Government: It is true, there is a delay. You are right, Íñigo, that everything points to it being at the start of the year. But the truth is that while there is life, there is hope; what I mean by this is that let's hope the European Commission gets this up and running in December, and not in January.

Q: But will you cover this post for certain or will you leave it vacant while we wait and see what happens in the political panorama in our country and see if the stalemate is prolonged?

Acting President of the Government: Let's see, just so your listeners are clear, the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs cannot be replaced while there is a caretaker government. This portfolio will have to be taken over.

Q: By another minister.

Acting President of the Government: By another minister, in the event that Mr Borrell leaves this post to go to the European Commission. I hope that we will have a government by December, and I say that in all honesty. The Spanish people do not deserve to have a caretaker government for almost a year. In short, I believe that we have a lot of things ahead of us to do and that we need to unblock this situation. That is why I would like to call for a large turnout on Sunday, because I believe that it is important to unblock the situation.

Q: Our talk is coming to an end. What plans do you have for this body, for the Spanish Radio-Television Corporation? A decree-law, a broad parliamentary consensus through a public tender? What plan do you have for the Spanish Radio-Television Corporation?

Acting President of the Government: Well, first of all, in relation to the announcement that I made during the debate the other day, we are going to amend the General Audio-visual Act so that the governing bodies of public entities, in this case both Spanish Television and the regional TV stations, are approved by a two-thirds parliamentary majority. This is the only way that these governing bodies, and hence also the information they provide, in terms of political information, in this case, are as plural as possible. But of course I am not thinking about you defending this plurality in the case of Spanish Television, and I acknowledge that, but rather about the sectarian use being made by the pro-independence movement of the public media in Catalonia.

I feel that this would be a very important measure to guarantee this plurality. I don't only say this in the first round, because this is what is happening right now in the Regional Parliament of Catalonia, but also in the second round. And in some way force this consensus so that there is a two-thirds majority that backs these governing bodies.

Secondly, I feel that what this entity needs is a medium-term strategic plan. I believe that general-interest television is undergoing a transformation that is not usually part of the public debate: often when we get home, what our children switch on is Netflix, or Amazon - a set of digital platforms that have nothing to do with general-interest television. And we are also seeing that they are not only losing their audience or screen share, but also their advertising revenue. I am not talking here about Spanish Television, but about the private television media.

Hence, I feel that Spanish public television must address this major challenge. On many occasions, we focus on the news programmes of Spanish Television. And on the defence of the plurality of information. And I feel this is important, and the government guarantees this, and hence has nothing to say in this regard.

But I believe that the debate, deep down, that the workers at this institution should address, and also as a public entity, the Spanish Radio-Television Corporation, is what we want it to be in the medium term. And whether it can be a competitive television station, in the sense of one that is seen by viewers or heard by both older and younger listeners. I believe that there are a great many things that can be done as a result of its long history as a public entity. There are great Spanish series that have been precisely broadcast by the Spanish Radio-Television Corporation.

The Spanish Radio-Television Corporation and this public entity have an enormous archive. I feel that this is an element, in my opinion, that is much more interesting and relevant to the future than the debate that arises on some occasions when we talk about the Spanish Radio-Television Corporation and National Radio.

Some extraordinary things have been done on National Radio, which is a very good example of things that have been done to adapt, in this case, a public radio station, to a new digital reality. With podcasts, with specific programmes about very concrete matters. I believe that this is the future, and not just a future for radio, but also for the Spanish Radio-Television Corporation. And that is where I believe a reflection should be made.

Of course, it is important to guarantee the political plurality of the news. Of course it is very important to unblock the situation regarding who will represent the management of the public entity. But, in my opinion, the most important thing is to see how we can redirect the public entity. And of course, the Government of Spain wants the public entity to survive.

And I can assure you that this is the approach and the commitment of the Socialist Party.

Q: Well, we are now out of time. Pedro Sánchez, Socialist Party candidate, thank you for being here with us on 'Las Mañanas'. Have a good day.

Acting President of the Government: Thank you. It has been a pleasure.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation

NOTE: This information was not available on the Moncloa website during the election period.