ABSTENTIONS from Catalan and Basque pro-independence parties yesterday saw Pedro Sanchez scrape through by the skin of his teeth to be voted in as Spanish prime minister – leading Spain’s first coalition government since the 1930s.

After nearly a year of caretaker governments, Sanchez won the simple majority he needed by two votes, leaving the way clear for his Socialist (PSOE) party coalition with the left-wing, anti-austerity party Podemos.

Tax rises for high earners and companies are now on the cards, coupled with the rolling back of labour reforms passed by a previous conservative government.

However, without a solid majority in parliament, the coalition may struggle to pass legislation and will need to negotiate with other parties on a case-by-case basis.

“I trust that we can overcome the atmosphere of irritation and tension and that we can recover a space for consensus and for agreement,” Sanchez said ahead of the vote.

The PSOE and Podemos have just 155 seats in the 350-seat parliament and the coalition was voted in thanks to some of the smaller parties, including the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and Bildu, the Basque independence party, who abstained.

However, Sanchez is now in charge of a government that is on a collision course with the EU, after the bloc said it recognised the pro-independence politicians Oriol Junqueras, Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín as MEPs, despite Spain’s attempts to stop them from taking up their seats and keeping Junqueras, who leads the ERC, imprisoned.

READ MORE: Catalonia: European Parliament considers recognising three MEPs

Former president Puigdemont and Comin, one of his ex-ministers, went into self-imposed exile in Brussels after the 2017 Catalan indyref, which also resulted in Junqueras being jailed for 13 years last October for sedition.

All three were elected MEPs in last May’s European elections and the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled last month that they were entitled to parliamentary immunity from the date the poll results were declared.

In the case of Junqueras, who had been in pre-trial detention for two years, that date was five months before he was sentenced.

Since then Spain’s electoral board has also vetoed moves to allow him to sit in the EU Parliament.

His lawyer, Andreu Van den Eynde, yesterday repeated his call for Junqueras to be freed.

Van den Eynde said: “He is an MEP. He has immunity. He must be free to go to the European Parliament.”