Spain | Pedro Sánchez and Carles Puigdemont play big in the elections in Catalonia

(Barcelona) The Socialist Party of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez hopes to rise to power in Catalonia in a key regional vote on Sunday and thus prove that its strategy of détente is winning against the separatist Carles Puigdemont, leader of the 2017 secession attempt.

This rich and dynamic region in the north-east of Spain, populated by around eight million inhabitants and endowed with a great deal of autonomy, is called upon to elect the 135 deputies of its regional parliament.

Polls show Mr. Sánchez’s Socialist Party well ahead of Carles Puigdemont’s party, Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia), and the other major separatist party, Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), led by the current regional president Pere Aragonès.

Taking back power from the separatists, who have ruled the region for a decade, would represent a major victory for Mr. Sánchez, who wants to “turn the page” on the 2017 secession attempt, one of the worst crises experienced by the country since the return of democracy.

Above all, it would allow him to relaunch a new mandate which has barely begun and is complicated by fierce opposition from the right and the opening of a judicial investigation against his wife, in the face of whom he considered resigning two weeks ago.

“New stage”

A socialist success would mean “a new stage” in Catalonia “after ten lost years”, declared the Socialist Party candidate in these elections, Salvador Illa.

This former Minister of Health during the COVID-19 pandemic came first in the previous election, in 2021, but was unable to become regional president, the independence parties having retained the majority in the assembly with 74 seats out of 135 .

Mr. Sánchez’s strategy of détente in Catalonia led him to pardon separatist leaders sentenced to prison for their role in 2017 and to concede an amnesty law, contested in the streets by the right, in exchange for support from Catalan parties for his return to power in November.


Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez

This text, which must be definitively voted on in the coming weeks by the deputies, will allow Carles Puigdemont to make his comeback to Spain after more than six years of exile.

Still under arrest warrant in Spain, Mr Puigdemont is campaigning from the south of France, just across the border, and has made strong progress in the polls in recent weeks.

“The independence movement is somewhat at an impasse” since the failure of 2017, “but I think that the candidacy (of Puigdemont) allows it to regain some color,” estimated Arnau Ollé, a 29-year-old computer scientist who came last weekend attending a rally of the 61-year-old separatist leader in Argelès-sur-Mer, in the French department of Pyrénées-Orientales.

President of the region in 2017, Carles Puigdemont wants to believe in his chances of leading Catalonia again if Junts establishes itself as the leading party of the separatist bloc and the latter, very divided, retains the majority of seats.

Alliance games

This hypothesis seems a priori complicated, especially since a new separatist formation, Catalan Alliance, classified on the extreme right and with which the other independence parties do not want to ally, has emerged in recent months and is credited with ‘a handful of seats by the polls.

Mr. Puigdemont is therefore playing big in this election, because he has assured that he will withdraw from local politics if he does not manage to be elected president of the region.

Credited in the polls with around forty seats, far from the absolute majority set at 68, the socialists will also have to find allies to govern.

One of the hypotheses is an agreement with the far left and with ERC, but this would ultimately implode the independence movement.

Ernesto Pascual, political scientist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, ​​does not think that these games of alliances could endanger the government of Pedro Sánchez, whose fragile parliamentary majority depends on the support of both Junts and ERC .

These two parties have no interest in “pushing Sánchez to resign” and provoking new elections, because “the (political) scenario could change very quickly” on a national scale, he emphasizes in reference to a possible arrival in power of the right and the extreme right, strong winds against the amnesty of the separatists.


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