June 13, 2019 / 11:41 AM / 7 days ago

Spain's Sanchez moves closer to PM post with Catalan abstentions

FILE PHOTO: Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez talks to the media as he arrives at a European Union leaders summit after European Parliament elections to discuss who should run the EU executive for the next five years, in Brussels, Belgium May 28, 2019. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

MADRID (Reuters) - Pedro Sanchez moved a step closer to clinching a renewed term as Spain’s prime minister on Thursday after a secessionist Catalan party said their suspended parliamentary seats held by jailed separatists would likely count as abstentions in a tight vote.

Spain’s Socialists, led by acting Prime Minister Sanchez, won the most votes in the April 28 election but fell of a majority, forcing them to seek support from smaller parties in parliament in order to form a government.

If Sanchez fails to garner the necessary votes for a simple majority, he will likely call a new national election.

The Socialists, who won 123 seats in the 350-seat parliament, need support from far-left Unidas Podemos and smaller regional parties to secure a simple majority against the right-wing parties, which will vote against Sanchez.

However, the numbers are tight and the Socialists can only win a majority if at least one legislator abstains.

On Thursday, Catalan legislator Laura Borras said that, while her party would vote against Sanchez, the three seats held by separatists on trial for organising an independence vote in 2017 would likely count as abstentions. That would tip the numbers in Sanchez’s favour.

The vote is expected to be held by mid-July.

Reporting by Belen Carreno; Writing by Paul Day; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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