MADRID -- Lawmakers who won seats in Spain’s November election, the fourth in as many years, entered the national parliament Tuesday, but there is still no clear sign that a government can be formed soon and fresh elections avoided.
The 350 deputies elected Socialist lawmaker Meritxell Batet as house speaker. Batet will have an audience with King Felipe VI this week after which the king will begin meeting party leaders over the coming weeks in the hope of choosing a candidate he deems capable of forming a government.
Incumbent Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is best positioned, his party having won the most seats — 120 —in the election. He has signed a deal with the left-wing United We Can party, which won 35, but they are still way off the 176-seat majority needed in the chamber.
With 19 parties present, the parliament is the most fragmented since democracy was restored in 1978, three years after the death of dictator Gen. Francisco Franco.
The biggest change emerging from the Nov. 10 election was the resurgence of extreme Spanish nationalism in the form of the far-right Vox party that won 52 seats to become Spain’s third parliamentary force.
The results of the Nov. 10 election left Sánchez´s proposed center-left and far-left coalition government depending on the support of several smaller parties, including a separatist party from the restive northeastern Catalonia.
Sánchez’s Socialists are now trying to clinch the abstention needed from the 13-seat secessionist Catalan Republican Left party, fueling charges from right-wing rivals that Sánchez is doing deals with those who want to break up Spain.
The Catalan secession push has provoked Spain’s worst political crisis in decades with the region’s 7.5 million population evenly divided over independence while the rest of Spain vigorously opposes it.
Seven Catalan politicians, including the head of the Catalan Republican Left party, and two activists were given jail sentences in October for their role in an illegal and failed secession attempt in the region in 2017.
The conservative Popular Party and the center-right Citizens party, as well as Vox, steadfastly refuse to support Sánchez or abstain. Between them they have 151 seats.
Wilson reported from Barcelona, Spain.