MADRID (AP) — Spain’s acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, is expected to be chosen by a majority of legislators to form a new government in a parliamentary vote Thursday.
The vote comes at the end of 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.
Barring any last-minute upsets, Sánchez has the support of six smaller parties, allowing him to reach the absolute majority of 176 lawmakers needed be reelected and form another minority coalition government with the left-wing Sumar (Joining Forces) party.
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 in the 350-seat Parliament but now have the support of 179 lawmakers following a series of pacts.
It remains to be seen if Sánchez can maintain the 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.
The vote is expected after 1100 GMT.
Wilson reported from Barcelona.