İrem UZUN -TDO- Spain's caretaker socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has narrowly won a confidence vote in parliament, enabling him to govern in coalition with far-left Podemos. The dramatic open vote, by a simple majority of MPs, went 167 to 165 in his favour. Abstentions by Catalan and Basque MPs played a critical role. He will now form a minority government. It will be Spain's first coalition government since democracy was restored in 1978, after the Franco dictatorship. Sánchez plans to hold his inaugural cabinet meeting on Friday.

Tuesday's investiture vote ends the nine months of political deadlocked triggered by two inconclusive general elections last year. Sánchez's Spanish Socialist Workers' party (PSOE), which finished first in both elections but fell well short of a majority on each occasion, moved quickly to reach a governing pact with Unidas Podemos following last November's poll. Key to Sánchez's tight victory was the abstention of the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left party (ERC), which agreed to sit out the investiture vote after Sánchez vowed to find a solution to the "political conflict" that has dogged Spain since Catalonia's separatist regional government tried to secede in 2017.

Sánchez said he wanted to free Spanish politics of its "toxic atmosphere". He said dialogue was necessary to "overcome the territorial disputes, always in line with the constitution". The PSOE is also opposed to granting Catalans a legal independence referendum, while recognizing that both Catalonia and the Basque Country are nations within Spain, and not just regions. The opposition centre-right Popular Party (PP) leader, Pablo Casado, attacked the proposed coalition led by Sánchez, saying he had "abandoned his constitutional obligations".

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