Spanish lawmakers on Thursday elected Francina Armengol, an ally of caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, as speaker of Spain‘s parliament.
The appointment is seen as Sanchez’s first step towards forming a new government.
Armengol who is the former leader of the Balearic Islands region, where Catalan is widely spoken, received a majority of 178 votes in the 350-seat chamber.
The votes came from Sanchez’s Socialist party, their left-wing ally Sumar, the Basque and Galician nationalist parties, and the Catalan separatist parties Junts (Together) and Esquerra Republicana (ERC).
Sanchez hopes he can also use the Catalan separatist parties’ support in an investiture vote to form a new government, which is expected later in August or in early September.
Catalan separatists give their backing
In return for their support in the election of Armengol, the Socialists and their radical left ally Sumar agreed to four demands, Junts said, stressing that the deal was “not linked to the investiture vote.”
Junts said the agreement included the recognition of Catalan as an official EU language and the use of Catalan in the parliament. It also involved setting up two inquiry panels into the 2017 Barcelona terror attacks and the use of Pegasus software to spy on Catalan separatists.
In her first address as speaker, Armengol announced that Catalan, Basque and Galician, which are official languages in some Spanish regions, could now be used in debates in the national parliament.
Congratulating Armengol, Sanchez said, “We are already working for a new legislature that is about progress and peaceful coexistence.”
Spain’s hung parliament
Spain has been stuck with a hung parliament following an inconclusive election on July 23. The conservative People’s Party (PP) emerged as the strongest force, winning 137 seats, but did not secure an outright majority.
The PP’s possible coalition partner, the right-wing populist Vox, only won 33 seats.
Sanchez’s Socialists, along with Sumar, have 152 seats. That means they would need the support of smaller parties, including ERC and Junts, which together have 14 votes, to win the investiture vote.
In the past, the separatists have demanded a new referendum on Catalonia’s self-determination and amnesty for anyone pursued by the Spanish justice system over their failed 2017 independence bid. Given Sanchez is likely to reject a referendum, reaching an agreement with the Catalan parties may prove difficult.
If neither Sanchez nor PP leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo succeed in forming a government, another election would have to be held at the end of this year or early next year.
dh/nm (AFP, dpa, Reuters)