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13 May, 2024 16:13

Catalan separatists lose majority

After granting amnesty to hundreds of separatists, Spain’s socialists won regional elections in Catalonia
Catalan separatists lose majority

Pro-independence parties in Catalonia have lost their parliamentary majority, with the socialist allies of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez emerging as the region’s largest party. 

The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), a sister party of Sanchez’ Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, won 42 out of 135 seats in regional elections on Sunday. Although the party fell short of the 68 seats needed for an absolute majority, the result represents a significant increase from the 31 seats it won in 2021 and makes the PSC the largest single party in the region.

Despite the separatist Together for Catalonia (Junts) gaining four seats to finish in second with 35, losses for other pro-independence parties meant that the separatist movement no longer enjoys a parliamentary majority. The Republican Left of Catalonia, a pro-independence party that has led the region’s government since 2021, lost 13 seats to finish with 20, the most significant fall in support for any party contesting the election.

Sanchez’ conciliatory position toward the separatists is widely seen as having defanged the pro-independence movement. The most controversial of his policies is an amnesty law passed last year, which once in effect will pardon hundreds of separatist leaders involved in organizing an independence referendum in 2017. The passage of the law outraged Spain’s right-wing parties and triggered massive protests in Madrid.

Speaking after votes were counted on Sunday evening, PSC leader Salvador Illa said that his party’s victory was the result of “the policies implemented by the Spanish government and its prime minister, Pedro Sanchez.” 

Although the 2017 referendum passed overwhelmingly, it was declared illegal by Spain’s constitutional court. Junts leader Carles Puigdemont fled to Belgium after the failed independence bid, dodging charges of rebellion, sedition and the misuse of public funds. The sedition charges against Puigdemont were dropped last January, and the Junts leader is expected to return to Catalonia when the amnesty bill comes into force later this month.

With Illa now seeking coalition partners, Puigdemont has called on the ERC not to join forces with the PSC. A former ally of ERC leader Pere Aragones, Puigdemont said on Sunday that “if Esquerra is willing to rebuild bridges” and build a coalition of pro-independence parties to keep the PSC out of government, “we will also be willing.”