ERC abstention clears way for Sanchez government

But Republican Left, in accord, gets negotiations

03 January, 13:20

    ROME - Spain nearly has a government following a months-long impasse and four early elections in four years, after the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) party decided its 13 MPs will abstain from the upcoming vote to confirm Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

    The government will be formed by an alliance between Sanchez's socialist party PSOE and Pablo Iglesias's anti-system left-wing Podemos party, as well as the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV).

    On Thursday evening, ERC's national council approved the abstention by a wide majority.

    The abstention will give Sanchez a majority in the vote for his investiture, scheduled for January 7.

    However, there will be a political price to pay: ERC and PSOE came to an agreement over the recognition of the "Catalan conflict" as "political" and not only an institutional crime.

    The agreement, the text of which was published by Spanish daily El Pais, foresees that the conflict be resolved with a "bilateral negotiation" that doesn't allow vetoes on any proposals.

    That means there won't be any possibility for another "auto-determination referendum" on Catalonia, following the one that was unilaterally declared by the Generalitat in Barcelona and led to arrests and convictions for key pro-independence separatists, including ERC leader Oriol Junqueras.

    The ERC requested the negotiation take place on the condition that it is between "governments", with no topics off limits, and that it includes a schedule of work.

    The conditions weren't easy for Sanchez's PSOE to concede, given that during the November electoral campaign it had said it would be intransigent with pro-independence Catalans.

    That, however, became the biggest obstacle to a pre-electoral accord with Podemos, which favours a politically open stance.

    Sanchez will be called on to respond to the opposition, including the Partido Popular (PP), which advocated the "avenging" intransigence, as well as the centrists of Ciudadanos and the far-right Vox party, which owes the majority of its 52 seats in the Lower House of the Spanish Parliament to its total opposition to any disunity of Spain.

    The country is now heading for a government that, for the first time in the democratic post-Franco era, has moved decisively towards the left.

    To form the government, the 155 PSOE and Podemos seats weren't enough, out of 350 MPs.

    The 13 ERC abstentions and the seven by PNV still aren't enough to reach the 176-vote majority needed to pass the first confidence vote, planned for the weekend.

    However, the second vote, scheduled for January 7, requires a simple majority and is expected to pass.

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