June 19, 2024

(Bloomberg) — Spanish conservative opposition leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo failed as expected in an initial bid to win parliamentary backing to form a government, putting acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez a step closer to retaining power.

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Feijoo fell four votes short of the majority of 176 he needed in Wednesday’s vote by lawmakers in Madrid, the latest twist following July’s inconclusive general election. He is also likely to lose a second vote due on Friday, clearing the way for Sanchez to make a bid for the premiership that hinges on the support of Catalan and Basque separatists.

Sanchez, who could be sworn in for a third term as early as next month, still faces tough negotiations to convince hard-line Catalan pro-independence party Junts to back him.

In exchange for its seven votes, Junts has demanded amnesty for hundreds of people involved in a failed secession bid in 2017. While Sanchez has not publicly committed to a wide-ranging pardon, he has said he wants a political solution to the territorial conflict that continues to divide the country.

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In an appeal to lawmakers Tuesday, Feijoo said a potential amnesty for secessionist activists is unconstitutional and accused Sanchez of misleading voters by not making it clear he would consider it.

Feijoo’s People Party won the most votes in the general election, when right-wing forces practically tied with the leftist block in a ballot that was initially expected to catapult him to the premiership.

A four-time president of the Galicia region, Feijoo on Tuesday set out a blueprint for opposition to another Sanchez administration. The PP would seek to strike down any amnesty law and block future budgets, potentially triggering the kind of political deadlock that has previously unsettled investors.

Feijoo has used the amnesty issue to rally his supporters, and more than 40,000 people took to the streets of Madrid on Sunday to protest against a possible legal reprieve for separatists.

While Sanchez has the edge, his eventual reliance on Junts and other separatist parties facing regional elections over the next two years could undermine his government. He’s seeking a stability pact with Junts under which the party would back key pieces of legislation.

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