May 22, 2024

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Spain’s socialists win the vote in Catalonia while separatists lose ground

Spain’s socialists win the vote in Catalonia while separatists lose ground
  • Written by Jay Hedgeco
  • BBC News, Madrid

Comment on the photo, The Socialists, led by Salvador Illa, emerged as the largest party in the Catalan parliament

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialists won regional elections in Catalonia, while pro-independence parties lost popularity.

The Catalan Socialist Party, under the leadership of former Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa, has made significant gains to emerge as the clear winner.

After counting 99% of the votes, the party won 42 seats.

Support for independence fell to 42%, from 49% in 2017, according to the Catalan government’s Statistics Institute.

In the campaign leading up to these elections, the issue of Catalonia’s relationship with the rest of Spain was pushed to the background due to other challenges, such as drought and the housing crisis in the region.

The hardline “Together for Catalonia” party, led by former regional president Carles Puigdemont, came in second place with 35 seats, regaining its position as the main pro-independence force in the region, ahead of the Catalan Republican left.

But overall, nationalist parties have lost support, meaning they no longer control the regional parliament, a blow to the independence movement.

However, pro-independence parties have extracted significant concessions from the central government in recent years and are still demanding an independence referendum.

The ERC minority government headed by Pere Aragones called early elections after failing to gather enough support to pass the region’s annual budget.

The amnesty, which is close to being approved in the Spanish Parliament, has sparked violent reactions from opponents on the right.

Illa praised the result as “a new era for Catalonia”. He said that among the factors that ensured the result were “the policies implemented by the Spanish government and its Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, to whom I send my thanks and appreciation.”

The amnesty law was a condition of JxCat and ERC’s parliamentary support for Sánchez in office, allowing him to form a new central government last November.

Puigdemont, who fled abroad in 2017 after leading a failed secessionist attempt, is expected to benefit from the amnesty and return to Spain. He campaigned before this election from the south of France.

Despite the Socialists’ victory, it will not be easy for Illa to form a government, given that he will likely need the support of the European Reform Party and the far-left Common Somare coalition.

Mr. Puigdemont called for the ERC not to be part of a coalition that includes the unionist PSC party. Instead, he suggested that the two main pro-independence parties try to form an administration, as they had done in the past before their relationship collapsed.

“If ERC wants to rebuild the bridges, so do we,” Puigdemont said.

However, the fragmented nature of the Catalan parliament, divided by separatist unionist loyalties as well as the left-right divide, is likely to make post-election negotiations protracted. If a new administration is not formed, there will be repeated elections.

Meanwhile, a new far-right party, the Catalan Alliance, won two seats on the back of its uncompromising platform of separatism and anti-immigrant policies.