4th Oct 2023

Spain's socialists win presidency of lower chamber

  • Spain's acting prime minister Pedro Sanchez. The new legislature begins — but everything is still up in the air (Photo: La Moncloa)
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Thursday (17 August) saw the start of a newly-elected parliament in Spain, with the MPs meeting for the first time in congress (the lower house) to decide who will preside over the chamber.

Although the official legislature has begun, everything is still up in the air, as the constitution of the Cortes is independent of the investiture negotiations.

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The socialist group, led by acting prime minister Pedro Sánchez, following his surprise election success in a snap election earlier this summer, once again achieved what seemed impossible: their socialist candidate, Francina Armengol, secured the presidency of the congress.

In less than a month, the socialists (PSOE) gathered enough support for Armengol — which will allow it to preside over congress.

Armengol will now become the third most important person in the state, after the King and the president of the government.

This victory is crucial in terms of managing political timing, the parliamentary agenda, working committees and the drafting of legislation, among other things.

However, the congress presidency does not guarantee that Sánchez's investiture as prime minister will go ahead, although it brings it closer, if there is nationalist support.

Catalan pro-independence leader Carles Puigdemont tweeted on Wednesday: "The congress bureau is not going to hold a position for us, nor is it about the inauguration".

In the same message, he added that "verifiable facts" would be needed before committing to any vote.

Last month's election left the largest single party, the conservative Popular Party (PP), without a sufficient majority to govern alone and without the support to form a coalition government.

PP won 137 seats and the PSOE 121. The third and fourth political forces, far-right Vox and lefwting Sumar, won 33 and 31 seats respectively, leaving potential coalitions without a clear working majority.

So now Catalan separatist leader Puigdemont, who lives in self-exile in Waterloo, Belgium, holds the key to Sánchez's ability to govern or to a repeat of the elections (which could take place in mid-December.)

Puigdemont's support for Sánchez's investiture will not be easy.

In return for his backing, the Catalan self-exiled leader is demanding an amnesty for all those who took part in the failed referendum on Catalan independence in 2017, as well as the possibility of holding a new vote on self-determination.

For now, both the PSOE and Sumar are in talks with the Catalan MEP, but Sánchez has only reiterated his commitment to promoting Spain's co-official languages, including Catalan, in European institutions.

"The inclusion of co-official languages must be a task in all institutions and that is why we are going to promote their use in EU institutions as a commitment that I will use throughout the Spanish presidency," the acting PM said on Wednesday.

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