The fragile coalition of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of Spain revealed deep and potentially paralyzing cracks on Tuesday when a tiny, hard-line Catalan separatist party he has allied with rejected a critical amnesty measure as unsatisfactory.
The party, Together for Catalonia, provided the support that allowed Mr. Sánchez to form the government last year, on the condition that he give amnesty for alleged crimes linked to the 2017 failed bid for independence. On Tuesday, the party argued that the legislative shield against prosecution for it and its leaders needed to be broader.
The rejection of the measure in Spain’s 350-seat lower house with 179 votes against and 171 in favor, was a setback for Mr. Sánchez, creating the likelihood of more weeks of arduous negotiations. It also raised the prospect that haggling over the amnesty deal — the very thing that gave birth to his second term in office — might render the government unable to pass basic legislation, including an upcoming budget.
“The problem is that this could be a zombie government,” said Pablo Simón, a political scientist at Carlos III University in Madrid, who added that since Mr. Sánchez had no incentive to call for early elections, the government could simply march along for months or years doing nothing if it didn’t untie the amnesty knot.
“This is revealing that the party support of this government is really weak,” he added.
The Together for Catalonia party, a pro-independence movement, has the ability to hold Mr. Sánchez and his government hostage over the issue because its few votes are required to pass legislation in a deeply divided, and polarized, Parliament.
The party itself is divided, making it harder to negotiate with, but it is seeking a blanket amnesty for Carles Puigdemont, the former regional president of Catalonia who led the failed secessionist movement in 2017 and who is still living in self-imposed exile in Belgium.