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Pedro Sánchez's socialists conquer Catalonia

Photo: Manaure Quintero Agence France-Presse Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez delivers a speech during a Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) election rally on May 2, 2024.

Rosa Sulleiro – Agence France-Presse in Barcelona

Posted at 12:04 p.m.

  • Europe

The Socialist Party of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez hopes to show on Sunday that Catalonia has turned its back on its separatist desires, by trying to win the regional elections against Carles Puigdemont, leader of the 2017 secession attempt.

Populated by eight million inhabitants, this rich region in the north-east of Spain, which is one of the economic and industrial engines of the country, votes to elect the 135 deputies of its regional parliament.

Polling stations will close at 6:00 p.m. GMT and results will be known in the evening. At 11:00 GMT, turnout stood at 26.89%, just over 4 points higher than in the last regional election in February 2021.

After having voted, the socialist candidate Salvador Illa, former Minister of Health under Pedro Sánchez during the Covid-19 pandemic, said he was convinced that his formation would “open a new decisive stage in Catalonia”.

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  • Decisive elections for the separatists of Catalonia
  • Pedro Sánchez defends amnesty in Catalonia, essential for his return to power

Mr. Sánchez, who is supported by pro-independence parties in the Spanish parliament, hopes to wrest the region, which they have governed for a decade, from them to prove that the policy of détente he has pursued in Catalonia since coming to power in 2018 has borne fruit and led to a reduction in separatist sentiment.

A clear socialist victory would also allow him to relaunch a mandate weakened by the opening of a judicial investigation against his wife in front of whom he considered resigning two weeks ago.

Pardon and amnesty

Determined to “heal the wounds” opened by the “political crisis” of 2017, the Prime Minister pardoned in 2021 the independence leaders sentenced to prison and agreed last year to adopt an amnesty law for all separatists prosecuted by the courts, in exchange for the support of their parties for his renewal for a new four-year term.

This amnesty must be definitively voted on by the deputies in the next weeks and allow the return to Catalonia of Carles Puigdemont, who fled the region in 2017 to settle in Belgium to escape legal proceedings.

Very controversial measure , she brought the right and far-right opposition into the streets who accuse the Prime Minister of having become the “hostage” of the separatists with the simple aim of remaining in power.

Outpaced in the polls by Salvador Illa, Carles Puigdemont wants to believe in his chances of victory to make a triumphant return to Catalonia at the head of the region, once the amnesty has been ratified.

The Catalans “have put themselves in marching order to win once again and to be respected by all those who attacked us”, launched Friday the separatist, who is campaigning from the south of France because he is still under arrest warrant in Spain.

Parliamentary arithmetic could however be complicated for the leader of Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) who assured that he would withdraw from local politics in the event of failure.

Divided separatist movement

Undermined by divisions, the separatist movement is in fact far from assured of retaining its majority.

Accused of being a “traitor” to the cause by Junts, the moderate ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia) party led by Pere Aragonès, the current regional president, lost a lot of ground during the legislative elections in July which were marked by a strong push from the socialists.

The games of alliances are made even more difficult for the separatists by the emergence of a new far-right party, Catalan Alliance, with which the other separatist groups have assured that they do not want to ally.

Interviewed as she left a polling station in Barcelona, ​​Anna Trullols, voter 80-year-old independence activist, regrets that the different groups in the movement are not able to “come to an agreement”.

Ainhoa ​​Matos, 31, who works in insurance, wants to believe that pro-independence sentiment “has diminished a lot” and calls for “a change” so that “the separatists do not govern only for the separatists.”

In the event of victory, the socialists, credited with around forty seats while the absolute majority is set at 68, will also have to find allies to govern.

One of the hypotheses cited is an alliance with the extreme left, member of the government at national level, but also with ERC which would thus abandon the idea of ​​a unity of the independence movement.

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