SPAIN’s interim prime minister Pedro Sanchez is expected to be confirmed in the post tomorrow after he failed in the first of two chances to win the endorsement of the Spanish Parliament to form a left-wing coalition government.

The Socialist (PSOE) leader, as expected, fell short yesterday when he won only 166 votes – 10 short of the required total for an absolute majority.

Sanchez hopes he will tomorrow have the support needed for a simple majority to create a coalition government of his centre-left PSOE and the left-wing, anti-austerity United We Can (Podemos).

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The largest pro-Catalan independence bloc in Spain’s Congress, the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), backed Sanchez’s bid to be prime minister by confirming that they would abstain in the vote.

ERC’s leader Oriol Junqueras is serving a 13-year sentence imposed last October after he was convicted of sedition for his role in Catalonia’s 2017 independence referendum.

The National: Oriol Junqueras's party supported Sanchez, by abstaining from the voteOriol Junqueras's party supported Sanchez, by abstaining from the vote

However, after lengthy negotiations with Sanchez, the ERC maintained that “without a table for negotiation, there would be no Spanish government”.

“Catalan citizens would be swindled otherwise,” said Gabriel Rufian, the party’s spokesperson in Congress.

Sanchez knew he would not reach the required 176 votes needed to secure the position and was focused on tomorrow’s proceedings where he only needs votes for him than against, a simple majority.

The Catalan crisis was never far from the forefront of discussions in Congress, with Sanchez telling MPs in his opening remarks: “We need to resume the political dialogue, where grievances began to pile up, we need to leave the judicialisation of the conflict behind.

“A political conflict needs to go back to politics.”

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Muddying the waters somewhat was Friday’s decision by the electoral board (JEC) to remove Quim Torra as president of the Catalan government, in a long-running row over yellow ribbons on official buildings.

They have become symbols of solidarity with independence leaders who have been jailed over the indyref, and Torra did not remove them from the front of the government building in Barcelona within the time set by the JEC.

He had also claimed that the JEC’s order “was illegal”. Torra was found guilty of disobedience at Catalonia’s high court in November, but has taken his appeal against conviction to the Supreme Court.

He also won backing from the Catalan parliament in an extraordinary weekend sitting.

The National: Quim Torra, right, meets Pedro Sanchez while wearing one of the controversial yellow ribbonsQuim Torra, right, meets Pedro Sanchez while wearing one of the controversial yellow ribbons

MPs from its three pro-indy parties – who command a majority in the parliament – confirmed Torra as their president, agreeing a motion that read: “The Catalan parliament rejects the resolution of the electoral board.”

They described the decision as a “coup d’etat” and accused Spain of launching a “general cause against the independence camp”.

Their motion also backed Junqueras’s right to be an MEP after the JEC decided not to allow him to take his seat in the European Parliament.

READ MORE: Catalan president banned from public office

This came despite a European Court of Justice ruling last month that Junqueras – who was detained for two years before being tried – had parliamentary immunity from the day the Euro election results were declared last May, five months before he was convicted.

Torra told Catalan MPs: “It is absolutely impossible to imagine that in any democracy in our environment we seek to violate the sovereignty of a parliament, supplant the rules governing it and disable the president of the country for defending universal fundamental rights.

“This can only happen in Spain ... All of Europe is watching us to see if we are genuine democrats and worthy of being Europeans, or if we are nothing more than that the Central Electoral Board wants us to be.”