Spain’s Socialist party has secured a key victory in the parliament after its candidate Francina Armengol was elected as the chamber speaker on Thursday.
Armengol won with 178 votes out of 350, thanks to the support of two Catalan separatist parties, including Junts, led by fugitive politician Carles Puigdemont.
The vote was seen as a test of the possibility of forming a new leftist government led by acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who has been in power since 2018. Sánchez’s Socialists won the most seats in the inconclusive general election held on July 23, but fell short of an absolute majority.
He has been seeking to renew his coalition with the anti-austerity Unidas Podemos alliance but also needs the backing of other smaller parties, especially from Catalonia. Junts said that its support for Armengol was not a guarantee that it would also back Sánchez and that it would demand a referendum on Catalan independence as a condition for any agreement.
Sánchez has rejected this demand and has instead offered to resume dialogue with the Catalan regional government, which is also led by Junts.
Spain has been facing a political deadlock since 2015 when the traditional two-party system was disrupted by the emergence of new parties. The country has held five general elections in six years and could face another one if Sánchez fails to secure enough support to form a government