(Bloomberg) -- Catalonia remains a thorn in the side of acting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who plans to govern the country after winning last month’s elections.

Separatist parties in the regional parliament joined forces on Thursday to thwart Sanchez’s plan to designate Miquel Iceta, the leader of the Catalan socialist party, as a senator in a step to become leader of Spain’s upper house. Esquerra Republicana -- potentially a key player in a forthcoming parliamentary vote to confirm Sanchez as prime minister -- opposed the proposal.

Sanchez’s Socialists became the biggest force in Spain’s parliament when they won 124 seats in the 350-seat chamber in elections held April 28. While he can rely on the support of the anti-austerity group Podemos and some regional parties to back him, he may also need Esquerra to abstain to smooth his path to power.

The push for Catalan independence became a crisis in 2017 when separatist parties tried unsuccessfully to split from Spain. The issue continues to generate moments of high drama. On Tuesday, Spaniards will witness the spectacle of four separatist leaders, who are in jail as they await trial for their role in the independence bid, take up the seats in parliament they won in last month’s vote.

Iceta needed Catalonia’s regional parliament to ratify his post in the Senate. Sanchez said yesterday that failure to support his candidacy would not just be a veto of him but also of attempts at dialogue over the independence question.

To contact the reporter on this story: Charles Penty in Madrid at cpenty@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net, Chris Reiter

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