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Spanish opposition leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo has failed in his second and final attempt to form a government following an inconclusive general election, handing the initiative to acting prime minister Pedro Sánchez.
Feijóo, head of the conservative People’s party, fell short of the parliamentary majority needed to become prime minister on Friday. Spain’s King Felipe VI will meet political leaders again next week and is expected to invite Sánchez to try to form a government.
The acting premier will have until the end of November to secure enough votes for a coalition and if he falls short Spain will hold repeat elections in January.
Sánchez’s path back to power is difficult: to reach a majority in the 350-seat Congress he needs the support of hardline Catalan separatists who are demanding a controversial amnesty in return as well as a referendum on breaking away from Spain.
While Sánchez has not ruled out an amnesty for Catalan leaders and activists over their unlawful push for independence six years ago, he has refused to allow another vote on secession.
But in the Catalan parliament on Thursday, Together for Catalonia and another separatist party, the Catalan Republic Left, passed a resolution declaring that they would not support any candidate for Spanish prime minister unless they committed to create the conditions for a referendum.
The move triggered a stern rebuke from the Socialist party and its Catalan branch, which said: “In this way no progress is possible.”
“Dialogue must serve to overcome division and not to deepen the rupture and discord that has generated so much tension in Catalonia and the rest of Spain,” the Socialists said.
The separatists’ other condition, an amnesty, has also drawn fierce criticism from the PP and even some Socialists. Critics say the move would be unconstitutional and gut the rule of law by treating Catalans separatists one way — including those convicted for the misuse of public funds and public order offences — and everyone else differently.
Feijóo argued that Sánchez’s willingness to make concessions to separatists would lead to “moral and political degradation”. “I will not be prime minister at the expense of the dignity of my country and the equality of all Spaniards,” the conservative leader said.
One probable beneficiary of an amnesty would be Carles Puigdemont, founder of Together for Catalonia and leader of the 2017 independence bid, who has been a fugitive from Spanish justice since fleeing to Belgium to avoid arrest.
Source: Financial Times