It is perhaps a fitting irony that the first multilingual debate to take place in Spain’s parliament after it approved the use of co-official regional languages—including Catalan, Basque and Galician—was over the doomed bid of People’s Party leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo to be elected prime minister. Both the PP and the far-right Vox party had opposed the change when it was initially approved the week before. But when Jose Ramon Besteiro of the Spanish Socialist and Workers Party, or PSOE, took the floor to speak in Galician on Sept. 19, MPs from the ultra-right Vox party marched out of the chamber in protest, leaving their headphones on the seat of acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
The incident was the latest twist in the drama-filled months since Feijoo’s party won a plurality of seats in the July 23 election but were left six shy of forming a coalition government with Vox. The only way either Feijoo or Sanchez can form a government is with the tacit cooperation of Spain’s regional parties in Catalonia and the Basque Country. That has put the two Catalan separatist parties that hold 7 seats each—Junts, or Together, and the Republican Left of Catalonia party, or ERC—in the kingmaker’s position, but Feijoo cannot and will not concede to their demands.
Sanchez, in his role as caretaker prime minister, already approved the use of co-official languages in parliament. To further assuage the Catalan separatists, he also elevated the question of co-official languages to the European Union, requesting that they be included alongside the union’s other 24 official languages, though Brussels is very unlikely to agree.