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Spain’s parliament confirms Pedro Sánchez as prime minister

Spain’s parliament confirms Pedro Sánchez as prime minister

by host

Pedro Sánchez won the backing of a majority of lawmakers in Spain’s parliament to form a new government on Thursday, bringing four months of political paralysis in Madrid to an end.

The 51-year-old premier prevailed in a vote in Spain’s hyper-fractured, 350-seat parliament, obtaining yea votes from every left-wing and separatist group. In all, 179 lawmakers backed Sánchez.

All seven lawmakers belonging to the Catalan separatist Junts party, which had the power to either make Sánchez prime minister or force Spain to hold new elections, voted in his favor. So, too, did the sole representative of the Canarian Coalition, who last month also voted in favor of center-right Popular Party leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo’s failed bid to form a government.

As expected, the 171 lawmakers belonging to Feijóo’s party and the far-right Vox group, as well as the conservative Navarrese People’s Union, voted against the socialist candidate.

Sánchez’s win in parliament concludes a period of political upheaval that kicked off in May, when the Socialist leader called snap elections after his party suffered devastating losses in nationwide regional and local polls.

At the time, Sánchez said that Spaniards needed to “clarify which political forces they want to take the lead” and that it was time to let electors “define the country’s political direction.”

After a bruising campaign, voters responded to Sánchez’s call by electing a hung parliament in which both the left-wing and right-wing political blocs fell short of a majority.

Sánchez immediately grasped the necessity of securing the backing of the separatist parties in the hemicycle and set about negotiating support agreements with each one.

The most complex deal was the one forged with the Junts party, which is controlled by former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont. The separatist leader, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Belgium since the failed 2017 Catalan independence referendum, demanded an amnesty for people prosecuted for actions linked to the movement.

Although Sánchez long maintained that such a blanket pardon was impossible because it would contravene Spain’s Constitution, on Monday his party filed a bill to grant an amnesty to people involved in the Catalan independence movement during the past decade.

Anger over the controversial proposal prompted hundreds of thousands of Spaniards to take to the streets in protest and underscored the deep tensions that remain.

Throughout the week, right-wing sympathizers — among them American provocateur Tucker Carlson — occupied the street which hosts the Socialist Party’s headquarters in Madrid. On Thursday, a group of Socialist MPs were pelted with eggs while they were making their way to the parliament.

Alberto Núñez Feijóo was left without options to form a government after two key regional parties rejected his overtures | Thomas Coex/AFP via Getty Images

During the heated debate leading up to the vote, Popular Party leader Feijóo accused Sánchez of committing “political corruption” by making deals “that are against the general interest” and are solely motivated by “personal benefit.”

Feijóo predicted that the amnesty bill would revive the Catalan independence movement and threaten Spain’s integrity as a country.

“No one has done more for the separatist cause than Mr. Sánchez,” he said.

Sánchez, however, countered that the legislative proposal fostered greater national unity through “dialogue and forgiveness,” and vindicated his next government’s role as a bulwark against right-wing forces intent on “keeping women in the kitchen and the LGBTQ+ community in the closet.”

The Socialist leader intends to form a minority government with the far-left Sumar coalition, whose leader, Yolanda Díaz, served as second deputy prime minister in the previous government.

Sánchez is expected to be sworn in by Spain’s King Felipe VI on Friday, and to spend the weekend putting together the names of the ministers he wants in his Cabinet — Spain’s second coalition government since the 1930s.

The vast ideological differences among the premier’s backers will make it difficult for the new government to pass major legislation. But Sánchez maintains he aims to serve a full, four-year term.

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