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Decisive elections for the separatists of Catalonia

Photo: Josep Lago Agence France-Presse If the amnesty proposed by the Spanish president is adopted, politician Carles Puigdemont (pictured) could return to Catalonia more than six years after his exile, following the independence referendum his government organized on October 1, 2017 .

France Media Agency in Barcelona

Published yesterday at 8:14 p.m.

  • Europe

Catalonia votes on Sunday in a regional election with national scope. Here are five things to know about this rich region in the north-east of Spain, run for almost ten years by the separatists and endowed with very broad autonomy.

Attempt at secession

Catalonia made headlines in the world's media when the regional government of Carles Puigdemont organized a self-determination referendum on October 1, 2017, despite its ban by the courts.

Almost a month later, the local parliament unilaterally declared the independence of the region, immediately leading to its placement under supervision by the Spanish government and the revocation of the local government. The main separatist leaders were then incarcerated or fled abroad, such as Carles Puigdemont.

This crisis, one of the most serious experienced by Spain since the return of democracy, almost half a century ago, continues to weigh on national politics.

Coming to power in 2018, the socialist Pedro Sánchez managed to remain in power in November 2023 thanks to the support of the two Catalan independence parties. In return, the latter obtained an amnesty law for the separatists involved in the events of 2017.

This text, which should be definitively adopted in the coming weeks, will allow Mr. Puigdemont to return to Catalonia more than six years after his departure.

According to the elected party, the May 12 vote will reveal whether the population is in favor of amnesty proposed by Spanish President Sánchez, seen as a way of calming the independence movement, or whether she prefers the uncompromising reaffirmation of the region's independence from Spain.

< h2 class="h2-intertitre">The separatists in power

At the beginning of the 2010s, in the midst of the financial crisis, the nationalist regional president at the time, the conservative Artur Mas, made a turn towards independence, a growing sentiment among the population.

Carles Puigdemont, a die-hard separatist from the same party, succeeded him at the start of 2016 as head of the region, which he led towards the secession attempt of 2017.

Since then, the separatists have managed to maintain their majority in the regional parliament. During the last election, in 2021, they obtained a total of 74 seats out of 135. Their divisions, however, led to the departure in October 2022 of Mr. Puigdemont's party, Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia), from the regional government. The other major separatist party, ERC, has since been alone in control of the region.

Ranging so far from the far left to the center-right, the independence movement has seen the emergence in recent months of a new far-right formation, Alliance Catalane, credited with 3% of the vote in the most recent polls.

Very broad skills

In a very decentralized Spain, Catalonia, populated by around eight million inhabitants, is one of the regions with the highest degree of autonomy.

Managing, like the others, health and education, it also has its own police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, and has recently obtained the transfer of control over regional rail transport.

As part of the agreement sealed with the independence parties to return Pedro Sánchez to power in November, the Socialists promised “measures allowing financial autonomy” of Catalonia, in the face of the request from Mr. Puigdemont's party to a “cession” to the region “of 100% of the taxes” paid there.

Economic engine

Catalonia is the second richest autonomous community in Spain and accounts for 19% of the national GDP (while it is home to around 16% of the population), just behind the Madrid region ( 19.4%), which has been ahead of it since the secession attempt in 2017.

In addition, the region, where Mango (textiles), Puig (cosmetics) are based , Grifols (pharmacy) and Cellnex (telecommunications), is, by far, the first in Spain in terms of exports (26.1% of the national total).

Industrial lung of the country, its unemployment rate is significantly lower than the national average, at 10.4%, compared to 12.3%.


Catalan is the official language of the region, along with Spanish. Teaching is mainly provided in this language, which is also the language usually used in administration. According to figures released last year by the regional government, 86.8% of the region's inhabitants understood Catalan well, which is the mother tongue of 29.2% of them.

Fearing a reduction in its use, the separatists fiercely defend it and last year obtained the ability to speak in Catalan in the Spanish Parliament.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116