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Spanish parliament to vote on confirming prime minister

MADRID (Reuters) - The Spanish parliament plans to meet in the coming days to discuss whether to confirm Pedro Sanchez as prime minister of a minority government, while his Socialist Party is seeking the support of a Catalan pro-independence party.

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The speaker of the lower house, Meritxell Batet, is expected to make a formal call on Thursday for a debate and vote on Sanchez, parliament’s Twitter account said, and lawmakers would meet on Jan. 4, 5 and 7.

Spain has been in political gridlock without a proper government for most of the year after two inconclusive elections.

On Monday, Socialist Party leader Sanchez and the head of the far-left party Unidas Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, restated their intention to form a coalition.

Since the two parties together fall short of a majority with 155 seats in a 350-member parliament, the Socialist Party is currently courting the Catalan separatist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya.

The Socialists need the ERC’s 13 lawmakers to at least abstain in order to secure acting prime minister Sanchez’s confirmation in office in a second vote on Jan. 7.

ERC’s governing body is scheduled to meet on Thursday to decide whether to facilitate Sanchez’s confirmation in office..

On Tuesday, the Catalan newspaper Ara said the Socialist Party agreed that a Sanchez-led government would hold a dialogue with the regional Catalan government and then put the results of that dialogue to the Catalan public.

ERC was not immediately available for comment on the report, while Jose Luis Abalos, a senior Socialist, said the party’s executive body still had to meet this week to discuss how the future administration would deal with the conflict with Catalonia.

“We’re going to see exactly how we’re going to do that, at what moment and on what terms,” Abalos told reporters.

Spain’s constitution prohibits regions from breaking away and the Catalan independence drive in recent years, which included a banned referendum in 2017, has caused the country’s worst political crisis in decades.

Reporting by Jesús Aguado and Inti Landauro; Additional reporting by Emma Pinedo and Belen Carreno; Editing by Giles Elgood