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Spanish PM's three options after election win

Marcelo Del Pozo, Reuters | Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez makes his speech during Andalusian election campaign rally in Chiclana de la Frontera, Spain, November 18, 2018.

He may have won Spain's snap election on Sunday, but Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez does not have the necessary parliamentary majority to govern solo.

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With his Socialist Party holding 123 seats in the 350-seat lower chamber of parliament, up from 85 previously, he will have to forge alliances to remain in power.

Here are his three options:

Without Catalan separatists

Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said Monday "we will try" to form a minority government.

That could mean Sanchez's Socialists partnering with the far-left Podemos party, which is eager, or just getting its support.

Still short of an absolute majority, however, he would have to court smaller regional parties such as the PNV Basque nationalists.

'Sanchez will need deal with Basque or Catalan nationalists'

Yet even if got them all on board he would still end up one seat short of an absolute majority of 176.

In that case, Sanchez could still pass the post-election, two-round confidence vote needed to be invested prime minister.

The first round requires an absolute majority, but the second round only requires a simple majority.

He could get that if some of the Catalan separatists who won parliamentary representation on Sunday abstained.

'Socialists feel they have more bargaining power'

The advantage there would be that Sanchez could dispense with having to rely on Catalan pro-independence lawmakers to wield power.

Avoiding a tie-up with those lawmakers would avoid the fall-out Sanchez suffered in June, when he relied on their backing to oust the conservative prime minister at the time, Mariano Rajoy, to accusations he was their "hostage".

But he would still have to negotiate major measures with them afterwards.

With moderate Catalan separatists

Sanchez believes lawmakers from Catalan separatist parties, which gained ground from 2016 polls by going from 17 to 22 seats, "are not reliable."

They supported him in June when he toppled Rajoy, as did Podemos and the PNV.

But then they withdrew their support when it came to voting for the Socialists' 2019 budget, angered at the Madrid trial of separatist leaders who tried to break Catalonia from Spain in 2017.

That lack of support forced Sanchez to call the early elections.

But an alliance with Podemos and Catalonia's pro-independence, left-wing ERC party, the more moderate of the two Catalan parties in parliament, would give Sanchez 180 seats -- more than the absolute majority.

ERC leader Oriol Junqueras, one of those on trial, has not fixed any "red line" for lending support to Sanchez.

But Catalan separatists still want to be granted an independence referendum, which Sanchez categorically refuses.

And this rocky coalition could implode fast if the separatist leaders on trial are given heavy sentences.

With Ciudadanos

The Socialists could forge an alliance with centre-right party Ciudadanos, which would give it more than the absolute majority.

But Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera made it a point to lambast Sanchez during the campaign, slamming him for attempting to negotiate with Catalan separatists and pledging to "chase" him from power.

He has ruled out such an alliance.

Ciudadanos won 57 seats on Sunday, up from 32, closely tailing the conservative Popular Party (PP) which scored one of its worst results in its history.

As such, Rivera could be angling to replace the PP in leading Spain's right-wing.

Sanchez has for his part not ruled anything out. But his supporters were clear on Sunday evening: "Not with Rivera," they shouted when he appeared in Madrid for his victory speech.

(AFP)

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