The Spanish prime minister will on Monday present his program for a four-year coalition government with the far-left Podemos.
Pedro Sánchez has been struggling to form a government since November’s general election left Spain’s political landscape deeply fragmented. His Socialist Party agreed a preliminary coalition pact with Podemos in November, but since the pair don’t have enough seats to form a majority, he had been hoping to persuade the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), a pro-independence party, to abstain in the parliamentary vote on his coalition.
Sánchez inched closer to forming a government on Monday, after gaining the support of the Basque nationalist party PNV. However, everything still depends on the ERC’s abstention, which is not guaranteed.
The prime minister hoped that the ERC — the party of jailed former Catalan leader Oriol Junqueras — would have made a decision by Monday on whether to abstain, but it has indicated it will not do so before December 31.
The timing is nerve-wracking for Sánchez, who would like the investiture vote to take place in the first week of January. If Sánchez wins, he will lead the first coalition government since Spain became a democracy in the late 1970s.
Meanwhile, Spain’s state attorney on Monday called for the release of Junqueras from prison, in what was perceived as a gesture of political goodwill towards the ERC. The state attorney’s office asked the Spanish Supreme Court to let Junqueras go to Brussels to take his seat as an MEP. He was sentenced in October to 13 years in prison over his role in a failed 2017 bid for Catalan independence, and was elected an MEP in May while in jail awaiting sentencing.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on his case in the coming weeks. Earlier this month, Europe’s top court said Junqueras should have been allowed to leave jail to take up his seat in the European Parliament.
In response to the state attorney’s call, Diana Riba i Giner, an ERC MEP, said it releasing Junqueras was merely “common sense” and “abiding by the sentence” of the Court of Justice of the European Union.