Spain’s acting Socialist prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, was chosen by a majority of legislators to form a new government in a parliamentary vote Thursday. Sánchez was backed by 179 lawmakers in the 350-seat lower house of parliament. Only right-wing opposition deputies voted against him.
The vote came after nearly two days of debate among party leaders that centered almost entirely on a highly controversial amnesty deal for Catalonia’s separatists that Sánchez agreed to in return for vital support to get elected prime minister again.
Sánchez won the vote after clinching the support of six smaller parties, allowing him to form another minority coalition government with the left-wing Sumar alliance.
Spain’s inconclusive national elections on July 23 left a highly fractured parliament. The center-right Popular Party received the most votes in the elections but failed to get enough support to form a government because of its alliances with the far-right Vox party. The Socialists finished second with 121 seats but now have the support of the 179 lawmakers following a series of pacts.
It remains to be seen if Sánchez can maintain their support over the next four years.
The amnesty deal that Sánchez’s Socialists signed with two key Catalan separatist parties that command 14 votes would clean the slate for hundreds of Catalan separatists in legal trouble following the northeast region’s illegal 2017 secession bid that sparked Spain’s biggest crisis in decades.
The amnesty law would benefit former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont, who is a fugitive from Spanish law and considered public enemy No. 1 by many Spaniards.
Despite lingering disagreements, the two Catalan parties as well as two Basque ones have said they intend to back Sánchez on Thursday but have let him know that he must fulfill the economic and political deals reached with each of them.
“We respect the agreements we reached. We started negotiations months ago that continue today, and Sánchez’s investiture is just one of the points of the agreement we have signed,” Míriam Nogueras, parliament spokesperson for Puigdemont´s party, Junts, told Catalonia’s RAC1 radio.
Spain’s judiciary has criticized the proposed amnesty. The European Union is reviewing it.
The proposal sparked street protests backed by the Popular Party and Vox which accuse Sánchez of betraying the nation just to stay in power. Protests outside the Socialist party’s headquarters in Madrid turned ugly last week and again on Wednesday night. Protesters threw an egg at a Socialist lawmaker prior to Thursday’s debate. He was applauded on entering the chamber.
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