A key Catalan separatist party on Thursday said that it would allow Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez another term, paving the way to an end to months of political deadlock in the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy.
The Catalan Republican Left’s (ERC) 13 lawmakers are to abstain from voting in a confidence vote in parliament next week, top party official and Catalan Vice President Pere Aragones said following a meeting of its national committee, a move that would allow Sanchez to stay on following two inconclusive elections last year.
Sanchez’s Socialists won the most seats in a repeat general election in November, but were weakened, falling far short of an absolute majority in the 350-seat parliament.
The Socialists have struck an agreement to form a coalition government with Podemos in what would be the first such power-sharing deal since Spain returned to democracy following the death of long-time dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.
The two parties together still fall short of a majority with 155 seats in the assembly. Sanchez has already secured the support of several smaller regional parties and had been negotiating with the ERC since the election.
The announcement came after the ERC and Socialists said in separate statements that they had agreed to set up negotiations between the central government and the Catalan government to “unblock the political conflict over the future of Catalonia and establish the basis for its resolution.”
“It is a difficult, complex path. We think it is worth taking,” Aragones told reporters.
Catalonia has been rocked by sometimes violent protests after the Spanish Supreme Court in October last year sentenced nine Catalan leaders to lengthy prison terms over their role in staging a banned secession referendum in 2017 and a subsequent declaration of independence.
ERC leader and former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras was among those sentenced.
Since the failed 2017 independence bid the ERC has adopted a more moderate stance, believing it is the best way to increase support for separatism in the longer term, but it has been criticized by some parts of the separatist camp for ingratiating itself with a government that opposes Catalan independence and fears rival separatist parties could take electoral advantage of any perceived concessions to Madrid.
With the abstention of ERC lawmakers, Sanchez could secure his investiture in a second confidence vote scheduled for Tuesday when a simple majority is needed. He would still lose a first confidence vote set for tomorrow when an absolute majority of 176 votes is needed.
Lawmakers are to begin debating Sanchez’s bid to form another government today in a rare weekend session.
Spain’s opposition accuses Sanchez of being held “hostage” by Catalan separatists by accepting the abstention of ERC lawmakers to win the vote.
“Sanchez has sold Spain in exchange for remaining in power,” People’s Party secretary-general Teodoro Garcia Egea said on Thursday.
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