The Spanish parliament’s speaker said on Wednesday the suspension of four Catalan lawmakers currently facing trial over their involvement in a 2017 regional independence bid would not affect the total number of seats in the house. A parliamentary majority in the 350-seat house would continue to be 176 seats, Meritxell Batet said. Spain’s acting prime minister Pedro Sanchez won a national election on April 28 but his Socialist party did not take enough seats to rule on its own, forcing him to rely on other parties to stay in power. Parliament is expected to hold a first vote on his nomination in July. The removal of the four seats would have allowed Sanchez to broker a majority position in parliament without relying on the Catalan separatists’ votes or abstention, which he is now likely to require.
Spain’s ruling Socialists were weighing options for forming a new government on Monday after they won a national election but fell short of a majority in a deeply fragmented parliament that could spell prolonged political uncertainty. Playing down talk of possible coalition options, Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said the Socialists would try to govern alone, while party president Cristina Narbona said it was in no hurry to decide.
“The Socialists will try to govern on their own,” Calvo said in an interview on Cadena Ser radio. “We have more than enough (votes) to steer this ship along the course it must follow.”
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, whose party celebrated into the small hours after increasing their representation in Sunday’s election to 123 seats from 84, declined to comment ahead of a strategy meeting on Monday afternoon.
If he does seek a coalition partner, he could opt for a complex alliance with fellow leftists Podemos that would likely require support from at least one Catalan separatist lawmaker, or he could risk upsetting his grassroots supporters by joining forces across the political divide with centre-right Ciudadanos.
Spain goes to the polls on Sunday for its most divisive and open-ended election in decades, set to result in a fragmented parliament in which the far-right will get a sizeable presence for the first time since the country’s return to democracy.
After a tense campaign dominated by issues such as national identity and gender equality, the likelihood that any coalition deal will take weeks or months to be brokered will feed into a broader mood of political uncertainty across Europe.
At least five parties from across the political spectrum have a chance of being in government and they could struggle to agree on a deal between them, meaning a repeat election is one of several possible outcomes.