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There were no surprises and, as the Moncloa palace had earlier warned, Pedro Sánchez sent Alberto Núñez Feijóo packing and thus will not facilitate his investiture as leader of a new Spanish government, despite the fact that the People's Party (PP) came out ahead of the Socialists (PSOE) in the general election on 23rd July. Feijóo's feint, proposing to Sánchez a legislature only two years long with himself as prime minister, in exchange for dealing with a series of weighty matters that have been pending for some time, like the entire area of judicial renewal, did not even function as tempting bait, since the Socialists are committed to either reaching agreement with Together for Catalonia (Junts) or holding a new election on January 14th, rather than easing the way for Feijóo.

With this offer having failed, the PP leader has two paths: to present himself as the winner of the election whom the PSOE has prevented from governing by assembling a pact of everyone else against the PP and Vox, or to set out in search of apparently impossible agreements with the Basque Nationalists (PNV) and Together for  Catalonia (Junts). The former have already expressed that they don't want anything to do with this, given that the autonomous election in Euskadi is on the horizon next year and the fear is that a wrong move could lead to problems a few months down the track if the Basque Socialists were to give support to the PNV's left-wing Basque rivals EH Bildu, thus making way for a different Basque executive, without Urkullu in the presidency.

The case of Junts is different but no simpler. The party has not said no to talking to the PP, but everyone knows that its conditions are unacceptable for the Spanish conservatives. With another factor as well: if Feijóo is tempted to yield to the Catalans, there will be Ayuso, and even more importantly, Vox, closing any option. Despite this and the reticence that the dialogue with Junts is causing in the very heart of the Catalan PP, such a dialogue will be carried out officially in the coming days, with significant leaders of both parties involved, and will thus move beyond the phase of discrete contacts that has dominated these final days of August. It is a question of deciding agendas, reaching agreement on the method and deciding whether to make a fanfare over the meeting, which is quite unlikely, at least for the first encounter.

The PP know that on the agenda for Puigdemont's party to facilitate an investiture is the amnesty and the self-determination/referendum package during the legislature. These two issues are moving at different speeds and the most urgent is that of the amnesty, since the parties' movements would have to be seen by the public before an investiture session. None of the three parties - not the PSOE, PP or Junts - seem, for now, willing to move from their starting positions, but we shall see how the game develops.

In the case of the two Spanish parties, they resist making concessions to the Catalan independence movement, while in that of Junts, they are aware of the risk that facing a new election could affect them negatively, either due to a loss of electoral support - the party's result in the last election was very poor and its current strategy could be rewarded or punished - or because they could lose the balance-of-power position that sheer good luck gave them on July 23rd. In any case, the deadlines for the investiture are so loose that the Feijóo investiture vote on September 27th must be reached first, and then a two month period opens in which the king could propose a new candidate before Congress is automatically dissolved. In other words, almost three months of negotiations remain if it goes all the way to the wire. An eternity.