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Sanchez vows ‘to find formula to govern’

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Monday that his PSOE party “will find a formula to govern”, after an inconclusive result in Sunday’s general election left no clear bloc able to form government.

The conservative Partido Popular won the election with 136 seats in Congress compared to 122 seats for the PSOE, which came second.

The PP had been widely predicted by polls to obtain sufficient seats to reach the 176-seat majority threshold alongside the far-right party Vox.

But Vox lost 19 seats to end up with 33 MPs, while the PP’s performance – albeit strong and up 47 MPs – did not meet the party’s expectations.

That left the door open to Mr Sanchez to try and cobble together a coalition of left-wing and regional parties to support him for another term in office.

While the PSOE recorded far stronger backing than most had anticipated, effectively halting the swing to the right, it too fell short of the threshold when the votes of the far-left Sumar and regional parties that have supported Mr Sanchez in the past were factored in.

On Sunday night, both Mr Sanchez and the PP leader Albert Nuñez Feijoo said they would try to form a government, opening up a period of political wrangling before the MPs take their seats on August 17.

After that date, Spain’s King will initiate talks with the political groupings in the Congress before deciding who should seek investiture to form government late August or early September.

When the new parliament convenes for the investiture session, an absolute majority of 176 votes will be required to install a prime minister on the first ballot, though a simple majority will suffice on subsequent ballots.

Mr Núñez Feijóo signalled he too would try to form government.

“I feel very proud,” he said shortly after midnight on Sunday, arguing before a crowd waving Spanish flags that since his party won the election, he had the right to form a government.

He said that the candidates who won the most votes had always governed, arguing that it would be an “anomaly” if it did not happen on this occasion, and would tarnish Spain’s reputation abroad.

Mr Núñez Feijóo said his goal was to spare Spain a period of “uncertainty.”

On Monday, Mr Sanchez too was bullish about the coming weeks.

“Spain is a parliamentary democracy with its procedures and timelines,” he said.

“This democracy will find a formula to govern.”

The ruling Socialists and far-left Sumar won 153 seats in the Congress but have more possibilities for negotiating support from small Basque and Catalan separatist parties, as they did following 2019's election.

This time round, however, they will need support from the pro-independence Catalan party Junts per Catalunya, led by exiled politician and former regional leader Carles Puigdemont.

Junts per Catalunya did not back Mr Sanchez in the last term in office, but Mr Puigdemont, who lives in self-imposed exile in Belgium since leading a failed push to split Catalonia from Spain in 2017, now unexpectedly finds himself a potential kingmaker.

But a deal between the Socialists and a party that is seeking Catalunya’s independence will further add to the fractious and toxic political landscape in Spain.

And in another twist on Monday, prosecutors in Spain’s Supreme Court requested a judge to issue an arrest warrant for Mr Puigdemont over his role in the 2017 independence referendum.

Junts Secretary General Jordi Turull said on Monday that he would use the "window of opportunity" created by the election impasse to achieve Catalan independence.

"The state knows that if it wants to negotiate with us, there are two issues that are fundamental and generate consensus in Catalonia which are an amnesty and self-determination," he said in an interview with local radio station RAC 1.

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