Catalans vote in regional elections to measure the strength of the separatist movement

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Six years after Spain was plunged into its worst political crisis in decades, Catalonia’s separatist parties risk losing their grip on power in the northeastern region after the pro-union Socialist Party scored a historic result in Sunday’s elections. .

The four pro-independence parties, led by the former regional president’s Ma’an Party Carles PuigdemontThe party was scheduled to obtain a total of 61 seats, according to an almost complete vote count. This is less than the key number of 68 seats needed to achieve a majority in the Council.

The Socialists are led by the former Minister of Health Salvador Ella They enjoyed their best result in the Catalan election, taking 42 seats, up from 33 in 2021, when they barely won a majority of votes but were unable to form a government. This was the first time that the Socialists led the Catalan elections in both votes and seats.

“Catalonia has decided to open a new era,” Illa told cheering supporters at his party headquarters. “Catalan voters have decided that the Socialist Party will lead this new era, and I intend to become the next president of Catalonia.”

Illa led Spain’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic before Sanchez brought him back to Barcelona to lead his party. The 58-year-old Illa’s calm tone and focus on social issues has convinced many voters that it is time for change after years of separatist pressure to sever century-old ties with the rest of Spain.

Sanchez congratulated Ella on the X platform on the “historic result”.

The Socialists will need to enlist the support of other parties to put Ella in charge. Reaching agreements in the coming days, and perhaps weeks, will be essential for forming the government. Neither a hung parliament nor new elections are unlikely.

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But there is a way for Ella to reach the target of 68 seats. The Socialists already form a coalition government in Madrid with the Somar party, which now holds six seats in the Catalan parliament. But the most difficult part will be winning over a leftist party from the separatist camp.

Regardless of those negotiations, the rise of the Ella party should bode well for Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the Socialists ahead of next month’s European Parliament elections.

Separatists have controlled the regional government in Barcelona since 2012, and have won a majority in four consecutive regional elections. But opinion polls and national elections in July showed that support for secession had diminished since Puigdemont led an illegal – and futile – government. Attempt to break up In 2017 this led to hundreds of major companies and banks in Catalonia leaving the region.

Puigdemont said: “The nomination you led achieved a good result. We are the only pro-independence force that increased its votes and seats, and we bear the responsibility that results from that.” “But that is not enough to compensate for the losses of other separatist parties.”

Sanchez’s Socialists have since spent significant political capital on reducing tensions in Catalonia, including pardoning prominent jailed separatists and moving forward with political reforms. Pardoning Puigdemont and hundreds of others.

Illa said that the Socialists’ victory “was due to many factors that must be analyzed, but one of these factors was the policies and leadership of the Spanish government and Pedro Sanchez.”

The “Together” party, led by Puigdemont, regained its leadership of the separatist camp by winning 35 seats, compared to 32 seats three years ago. He fled Spain after a 2017 secession attempt and ran his election campaign from southern France, vowing that he would return to his homeland when lawmakers meet to elect a new regional president in the coming weeks.

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Puigdemont’s escape from Spain became the stuff of legend among his followers, and a major source of embarrassment to Spanish law enforcement forces. He recently denied during the election campaign that he hid in the trunk of a car to avoid detection while sneaking across the border during a legal crackdown that led to the imprisonment of several of his comrades until the Sánchez government pardoned them.

Now, the only way Puigdemont might be able to keep the separatists in government depends on the remote possibility of reaching an agreement with Sánchez to guarantee separatist support for his national government in Madrid in exchange for Ella returning the favor to the separatists in Barcelona.

The number of seats for the Republican Left in Catalonia, led by regional president Pere Aragonés, decreased to 20 seats from 33 seats. But the leftist separatist party, which ruled in the minority during his rule, was in the minority. Drought recordHe could be key to Ella’s hopes, although that would require him to break away from the pro-secession bloc.

The number of seats for the Popular Party, the largest party in the Spanish National Parliament where it leads the opposition, rose to 15 seats from three.

The far-right Spanish nationalist Vox party took 11 seats, while at the other end of the spectrum, the far-left pro-secessionist Cup party won four seats, up from nine.

A far-right, pro-secessionist party called the Catalan Alliance, which opposes unauthorized immigration as well as the Spanish state, will enter the chamber for the first time with two seats.

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“We have seen that Catalonia is not immune to the wave of far-right reactionism sweeping Europe,” said Aragonés, the outgoing regional president.

Crippling drought, not independence, is the current main concern of Catalans, according to the latest poll conducted by the Catalan Public Opinion Office.

The Opinion Bureau said 50% of Catalans opposed independence while 42% supported it, meaning support for it had fallen to 2012 levels. When Puigdemont left in 2017, 49% supported independence and 43% opposed it.

More than 3.1 million people voted, with a participation rate of 57%. Thousands of voters were likely to have difficulty reaching polling stations when Catalonia’s commuter rail service was forced to close several train lines after what officials said was the theft of copper cables from a train facility near Barcelona.

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