Spain’s new parliament began meeting Thursday after an inconclusive July election with lawmakers to choose a new speaker in a closely-watched vote in which the hardline Catalan separatist party JxCat will play a key role. Thursday’s vote is widely seen as a trial run ahead of a crucial investiture vote — which determines who forms the government — expected next month. During the July polls, neither the left nor the right won the 176 mandates for a working majority in the 350-seat Congress of Deputies — with each side only able to amass the cross-party support of 171 lawmakers. That has put JxCat in an influential position, for how its seven lawmakers vote — both on Thursday and in the investiture vote — could be decisive. Shortly before the session began at 0800 GMT, Spanish media reports said JxCat had reached a last-minute deal to back Francina Armengol, the Socialist candidate proposed by the acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.