MADRID (Reuters) - Spain enters a week of debates and votes which will be vital in determining whether Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez, who has been acting prime minister since an inconclusive election in late April, will be confirmed in the job.
Leaders of the main parties are at odds with each other in a country with no recent experience of coalition governments and an increasingly fragmented political landscape, meaning it may take many more weeks, and possibly a repeat election, to find a deal.
On Thursday, in a setback for Sanchez, Podemos members voted to say they only wanted their far-left party to back Sanchez if he agreed to a full-fledged coalition government, with no vetoes on who would take part on their side.
Here are the main dates and events to watch out for:
* JULY 22-23: FIRST TIME LUCKY?
Sanchez and the leaders of parties from the far-left to the far-right will fight off for hours on Monday and Tuesday in a parliamentary debate ahead of the first investiture vote, scheduled for around 1800 (1600 GMT) on Tuesday.
Sanchez is very unlikely to win this first vote, which requires an absolute majority and would need not only the Socialists’ 123 lawmakers and far-left Podemos’ 42 to vote for him but also many other small parties, to get at least 176 votes.
Forty-eight hours after the first vote, lawmakers will cast ballots again. This time, all Sanchez requires is more “yes” than “no” votes. But that still will not be easy.
It will mostly depend on what Podemos does. If they vote for Sanchez, alongside Basque nationalists and a handful of lawmakers from smaller regions, which are largely guaranteed, it is in the bag for Sanchez.
Without Podemos, Sanchez would require a surprise abstention by a big party, possibly the conservative People’s Party (PP). It would be very unexpected at this stage but that has happened in the past.
Sanchez has insisted he would not allow Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias in his cabinet, angering the anti-austerity party. What remains to be seen is if, and when, both sides could agree on less high-profile Podemos representatives.
* SEPTEMBER CATCH-UP SESSION?
That’s where the game of chicken gets even more tense. Podemos or other parties might well decide they want to make Sanchez sweat it out more and wait for another vote in September, but the Socialists have said it’s all off if he is not sworn in next week.
If no deal is reached, a repeat election would be held on Nov. 10. If there is a deal and Sanchez is confirmed as prime minister, the question will be what he can achieve in power, considering how fragmented Spanish politics are.
Reporting by Ingrid Melander and Belen Carreno; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Susan Fenton