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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spanish Parties Test Strength in Parliament

MADRID -- Spain's bickering political parties test their new strengths Wednesday when parliament convenes for the first time since a general election this month that ended 13 years of Socialist rule.

Jose Maria Aznar's conservative Popular Party, or PP, which won the election on March 3 but fell well short of an outright majority, hopes to overcome the Socialists' rejection of its choice for speaker of parliament, Federico Trillo.

Trillo's fate will not alter Aznar's chances of forming a government but it could provide pointers to how active a resistance to the PP the Socialists or the Communist-led United Left will put up.

The Socialists, headed by caretaker Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, say they will vote against Trillo on Wednesday because he was one of their most pitiless attackers over a series of corruption scandals and charges that they waged a "dirty war" on Basque separatist rebels in the 1980s.

Those scandals caused Gonzalez's Catalan allies to desert him last summer, depriving him of a majority in parliament and forcing him to call elections more than a year ahead of schedule.

In the parliament that convenes Wednesday, the Catalans are widely predicted to switch their support to Aznar's PP, which won 156 seats -- 20 short of an absolute majority. The PP can not rule without the 16 Catalan seats.

Smaller regional parties such as the Canary Islands coalition, with four seats, or the moderate Basque Nationalist Party, with five, are likely to fall in line behind the PP.

The United Left, long at odds with Gonzalez's Socialists whom it accuses of betraying leftist ideals, are embroiled in a war of words with them this week after accusing the Socialists of trying to scupper Aznar's efforts to form a government.

Gonzalez, one of the West's longest-serving leaders, has denied the charges and says he will not stand in Aznar's way.

Aznar, a former tax inspector, has offered the Catalans a greater say over taxes levied in their wealthy northeastern region of Spain and has gone out of his way to praise the Catalan language -- a cross between French and Spanish and a subject that arouses enormous passion in Catalonia.

He has been ridiculed by other parties for telling television last week that Catalan is one of the world's finest languages and assuring his interviewers that he sometimes even speaks it in private.