Spain’s Socialists and Podemos reach preliminary coalition deal

Spanish acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Unidas Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias shake hands during a news conference at Spain's Parliament in Madrid, Spain, November 12, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 12 November 2019

Spain’s Socialists and Podemos reach preliminary coalition deal

  • Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Unidas Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias will meet at 12:45 GMT, the Socialist party said

MADRID: Spain’s Socialists and far-left Unidas Podemos party agreed on the basis of a coalition government on Tuesday, just two days after a parliamentary election delivered a highly fragmented parliament.
The election — the country’s fourth in four years — left Spain’s parliament even more divided than a previous ballot in April, with the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) retaining its lead but further away from a majority.
“It’s a deal for four years,” Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez, who is currently acting prime minister, said after signing the pact alongside Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias.
The unexpectedly fast preliminary agreement would require further steps including bringing in smaller parties and agreeing on who gets what position in the cabinet.
If confirmed, it would be Spain’s first coalition government since the country’s return to democracy in the late 1970s.
“Spain needs a stable government, a solid government,” Sanchez said, adding that the deal was open to others.
The combination of the 120 seats obtained by the Socialists and the 35 of Unidas Podemos falls short of a majority in the 350-seat parliament.
The Socialists and Podemos had tried and failed to strike a government deal after the April election, which had prompted Sanchez to call the repeat ballot.
The two men had been at odds for months and exchanged harsh words as acrimonious talks failed after the April election.
On Tuesday they were all smiles, hugging after they signed the pact.
“We’ve reached a preliminary agreement to create a progressive coalition government in Spain, which combines the experience of PSOE with the courage of Unidas Podemos,” Iglesias said.
Local media including La Sexta TV said that Iglesias would be deputy prime minister, something which Sanchez had refused in the post-April election talks. Sanchez had also at the time opposed a coalition government. The two leaders said details would come later and did not comment further.
El Diario newspaper said they would try to get other parties on board, including the market-friendly Ciudadanos, far-left Mas Pais and the Basque nationalist PNV.


3,000-strong African force planned against Sahel extremism

Updated 28 February 2020

3,000-strong African force planned against Sahel extremism

  • The force would be a significant new player in the Sahel where fighters linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group killed thousands of people last year
  • The decision by African leaders comes as the United States considers cutting its military presence in Africa while urging African solutions to African problems

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia: African leaders have decided to work on deploying 3,000 troops to West Africa’s troubled Sahel region as extremist attacks surge, an African Union official said Thursday.
The force would be a significant new player in the sprawling, arid region south of the Sahara Desert where fighters linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group killed thousands of people last year — at times working together in an unprecedented move.
The decision by African leaders comes as the United States considers cutting its military presence in Africa while urging African solutions to African problems. That has sparked pressure from worried security allies including France and regional countries as well as a rare bipartisan outcry among lawmakers in Washington.
Smail Chergui, the African Union commissioner for peace and security, relayed the new troop decision that was taken at the recent AU summit during a meeting Thursday with visiting European Union officials.
The AU continental body is expected to work with the West African regional counterterror force G5 Sahel as well as the West African regional body ECOWAS, which has formed peacekeeping units in the past, Chergui said.
ECOWAS in September announced what Chergui called a “very bold” plan to counter extremism in the region, including mobilizing up to $1 billion through 2024.
“As you see and recognize yourself, the threat is expanding and becoming more complex,” Chergui said. “Terrorists are now even bringing a new modus operandi from Afghanistan and Al-Shabab” in Somalia.
It was not immediately clear what the next steps would be in forming the AU force for the Sahel, which has become the most active region in Africa for extremist attacks.
The force would join France’s largest overseas military operation, the 5,100-strong Barkhane, and the 15,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping force in Mali, one of the hardest-hit countries in the attacks along with Burkina Faso and Niger.