Now is the moment for Pedro Sánchez to shine.
On Friday, there was a second vote on the proposal of Alberto Núñez Feijóo, leader of the center-right Popular Party, to form a government. Similar to the first vote on Wednesday, the majority of Spanish lawmakers opposed the conservative leader’s bid, with 177 voting against him and 172 in favor.
Eduard Pujol, a member of the Catalan separatist Junts party, accidentally voted for Feijóo but promptly withdrew his support. This vote was ultimately declared void.
After Parliament definitively rejected Feijóo’s attempt to become PM, King Felipe VI of Spain must now invite political leaders to Zarzuela Palace and ask for their opinions on who should be the next prime minister. The most likely choice is caretaker PM and leader of the Socialist Party, Sánchez, who has been waiting for the right moment while his conservative opponent attempted to form a government.
To be selected again as prime minister, Sánchez must gain majority approval from the parliament. This requires the support of the Junts party, which is overseen by the self-exiled former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.
The Socialist leader is likely to comply with Puigdemont’s request for a general amnesty for those involved in the unsuccessful 2017 Catalan independence referendum. However, it is uncertain if he will agree to the former president’s proposal for a fresh ballot on Catalan self-determination.
Junts and the separatist Republican Left of Catalonia party, whose support Sánchez also needs, signed a pact on Thursday in which they vowed not to back the Socialist leader if he does not explicitly “commit to create the effective conditions for holding a referendum.”
The acknowledged lack of confidence between the Catalan independence groups and Madrid will result in sensitive discussions taking place with a looming countdown: The initial disapproval of Feijóo’s nomination by lawmakers on Wednesday triggered a 60-day time limit, after which parliament must be dissolved and a fresh election held 47 days afterwards.
Sánchez will need to act quickly to gain the backing of the separatists if he wishes to avoid a new election on January 14, 2024.