The victory of the Catalan Socialists is a boon for Spanish Prime Minister Sánchez

The victory of the Catalan Socialists is a boon for Spanish Prime Minister Sánchez

Spain breathes a sigh of relief. On Sunday, the Catalan independence movement lost its majority in the regional parliament in Barcelona for the first time in forty years. The results of the regional elections strengthen the position of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. The call for independence is more distant than ever.

All eyes were on the “Gents in Catalonia” party, the separatist party led by Carles Puigdemont. Now that a national law is on the table granting Spanish separatists amnesty for their role in the illegal 2017 independence referendum, Puigdemont will soon be allowed to return to Spain after seven years of exile. He wanted to return to Catalan politics as regional president.

But things turned out differently: the Catalan Socialist Party, affiliated with Prime Minister Sanchez’s party, became the biggest winner in the regional elections, winning 42 seats out of 135. Never before have socialists in Catalonia achieved such a result. The Esquerra Republica de Catalunya (ERC) independence party, led by current regional president Pere Aragonés, lost thirteen seats.

Head lock

The debate about independence is increasingly fading into the background due to other problems in the region. For example, Catalonia is suffering from a severe drought, which prompted it to declare a state of emergency in more than two hundred municipalities last February. There is also a housing crisis and many Catalans are no longer able to make ends meet.

But the Catalan issue itself also played a role in the historic defeat suffered by the independence parties. Since the 2017 illegal referendum and Puigdemont’s unilateral declaration of independence, Catalonia has controlled all of Spain. Madrid issued an arrest warrant for all those involved, but Puigdemont fled to Belgium and continued to direct his party from Waterloo. Massive demonstrations in Catalonia demanded the release of separatist politicians and activists.

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This call for independence has waned since Pedro Sánchez became prime minister in 2018. In a first attempt to restore calm, he pardoned nine independence leaders in 2021. Sánchez said it was time for dialogue and mutual understanding.

Political action

In September last year, Catalan, Galician and Basque were approved as official languages ​​in the national parliament. This is also an attempt on Sanchez’s part to keep the Catalans happy, thus nipping the call for independence in the bud. According to opinion polls From April this year Fewer and fewer Catalans believe in independence.

The most controversial measure is the amnesty law introduced last year. Thanks to this law, Sánchez gained support from the Catalan independence parties, which he needed to get a majority in parliament behind him and form a new government. The law – of which Puigdemont is the most prominent beneficiary – sparked intense anger in the country. The right accused Sánchez of treason, but analysts saw a larger political goal: destroying Catalan independence movements. There is also anger among separatists about the amnesty: they believe they are innocent, and therefore an amnesty is unnecessary.

It seems that this political step is now achieving positive results. But the Socialists do not have an absolute majority in Catalonia and must form a coalition with other parties. For this they need the ERC and the radical left Communards. Puigdemont – who has said he would leave politics if he loses – still wants to try to form a majority, including through negotiation with the European Reform Council.

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