Spain’s new prime minister aims for regular elections in 2020

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez greets the TVE television team on 18 June, ahead of his first interview since taking office. [EFE-EPA/JuanJo Martin]

Spain’s new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who took over earlier this month after his conservative predecessor lost a no-confidence vote, said on Monday (18 June) he plans to stay in office until the regular ballot scheduled for 2020. EURACTIV’s partner efe-epa reports.

“I aspire to call elections in the year 2020, to exhaust the (current) legislature,” the Socialist leader told TVE television in an interview at Moncloa palace, his first since taking office on 2 June.

He said he wants to normalise the political and institutional situation in Spain before asking voters to return to the polls.

No single party won a majority in the 2016 general elections, but the Popular Party managed to form a governing coalition with the centrist Ciudadanos party and several regional parties.

In the no-confidence vote, however, the regional parties joined Sanchez’s Socialists and the leftist Podemos in ousting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Rajoy then quit as the PP leader a few days after the vote.

The race to replace him gathered pace on Tuesday as two heavyweight contenders, both women, announced their candidacy. Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría and María Dolores de Cospedal, two of Rajoy’s most trusted allies, both gave notice they intended to run for the top party post.

Sanchez said on Monday he aimed “to govern with Congress and hand-in-hand with the autonomous communities and the municipal administrations and to bring forward the bills vetoed by the previous government.”

Regarding one of those autonomous communities, Catalonia, the prime minister said he hoped his meeting in early July with Catalan regional president Quim Torra would be more than just a formality.

The PP government led by Rajoy imposed direct rule on the prosperous northeastern territory last October after the Catalan administration defied the Spanish Supreme Court by holding a referendum on independence.

A number of Catalan politicians and civic leaders are being held in and around Madrid pending trial on sedition charges and Sanchez said on Monday it would be “reasonable” to relocate them to prisons in Catalonia once the investigative phase of the case has been completed.

“I hope to be able to open a new stage in Catalonia,” the premier said.

Though it is traditional every new Spanish prime minister to make the first trip abroad to Morocco, Sanchez will make his debut on the international stage by travelling to Paris for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday (23 June).

He said the agenda for his discussions with Macron will be the situation of the 630 migrants who docked in Spain aboard the vessel Aquarius, after being turned away from Italian ports.

France has offered to accept some of the Aquarius migrants.

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