Spanish Right Risks Sliding Toward Extremism, PM Sanchez Says

(Bloomberg) -- Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez warned his main opponents that they’ll lay themselves bare to radicalization if they court the “extreme right” to gain power.

In his first speech since calling snap elections for April 28, Sanchez attacked the conservative People’s Party and the center-right Ciudadanos for seeking to negotiate with Vox, an anti-immigration party that has also attacked policies to promote gender equality and curb domestic violence.

“By making pacts with the extreme right, you’re not going to moderate the ultra-right; the ultra right is going to radicalize each of the parties that makes a pact with them,” Sanchez said at an event in Seville. “The supposed liberals are selling off women’s liberties in order to get into government.”

The comments are an attempt to claim the center ground and grab votes from Ciudadanos voters who might be turned off by the party’s flirtation with Vox. The People’s Party, Ciudadanos and Vox reached an agreement last month to form a government in Andalusia and have opposed Sanchez’s attempts to negotiate with Catalan pro-independence parties. There are no shades of difference between the three right-wing parties, he told supporters at a rally.

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Sanchez decided to call early elections after parliament exposed the dwindling authority of his minority government by voting down his budget plan. He had snatched power last year by persuading a loose coalition that included the separatists to oust his predecessor Mariano Rajoy in a no-confidence vote following a string of graft revelations.

The fractured political landscape in Spain has opened the door to smaller parties, giving them the opportunity to wield greater influence on the national stage. Vox shook Spanish politics in December with an unexpectedly strong showing in the Andalusia regional elections, helping knock the Socialists out of power there. As a nationalist movement, Vox found success, in part, by tapping into voter anger at Catalonia’s independence drive.

Pollsters see an alliance between Vox, the People’s Party and Ciudadanos as the most likely to be able to form a government. Those three groups together have more than 50 percent support, according to a Feb. 13 opinion poll by Celeste-Tel and published by the news website Eldiario.es.

People’s Party leader Pablo Casado has accused Sanchez of negotiating with Catalan nationalists and communists. In a speech in Zaragoza, he said his party would lower income and corporation taxes to below 40 percent and 20 percent respectively, and freeze Sanchez’s efforts to introduce a tax on financial transactions.

“Thanks to the PP, the government has thrown in the towel after we found them negotiating with independence activists,” Casado said. “This Socialist nightmare with the communists and independence parties is going to end because we have a majority in this country.”

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