Spain’s King Felipe Asks Pedro Sanchez to Attempt to Form Government

(Bloomberg) -- Spain’s King Felipe VI invited acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to attempt to form a government and end the country’s prolonged political gridlock.

Parliament speaker Meritxell Batet announced the monarch’s decision in a televised statement. In a news conference, Sanchez said he’d accept Felipe’s invitation “with honor and enormous gratitude.”

“We need the legislature to get going because there are many challenges we have to tackle as a country,” Sanchez said. “There’s no time to lose.”

In elections held last month, Sanchez’s Socialists again emerged as the biggest party in Spain’s 350-seat parliament but well short of an overall majority. Sanchez has already sealed a pact with the anti-austerity group Podemos and is in talks with the Catalan separatist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya to line up the support he needs to stay on as prime minister.

Sanchez says Spain needs a government to safeguard economic growth and press on with the progressive political agenda that he says the majority of voters want. The country has been without a majority government since 2015 and has held four elections in as many years.

Last month, the European Commission cut its 2019 growth outlook for Spain to 1.9% from 2.3%. While that still far exceeds the euro zone as a whole, momentum is fading as job growth slows and Brexit uncertainty and trade tensions weigh on companies.

Talks with ERC have so far proved inconclusive after three rounds of consultations. Sanchez said he’d meet the leaders of the opposition People’s Party and Ciudadanos next week. His party will also reach out to all parties in parliament to canvass support for his bid to form a government.

After being invited to form a government, Sanchez still has time to shore up support before seeking a date for an investiture vote. Following elections in April, Felipe asked Sanchez to form a government on June 6, but the first vote in parliament didn’t take place for more than six weeks.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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