Navigating Political Uncertainty
Spain’s interim Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, staunchly defended his contentious amnesty agreement with Catalonia’s separatists in parliament, a day before seeking the chamber’s endorsement to establish a new government.
Sánchez, backed by six smaller parties, aims to secure the absolute majority of 176 deputies necessary to reconstitute his minority coalition government with the left-wing Sumar (Joining Forces) party.
The potential establishment of a new government would bring an end to a period of political uncertainty stemming from inconclusive national elections on July 23. Although the center-right Popular Party secured the most votes, its alliances with the far-right Vox party proved insufficient to form a government in September.
Despite finishing second in the elections with 121 seats in the 350-seat Parliament, the Socialists now command the support of 179 lawmakers.
Controversial Pacts and Legal Scrutiny
Controversy surrounds the agreements forged by Sánchez’s Socialists with two prominent Catalan separatist parties. These pacts include a commitment to enact an amnesty law, absolving hundreds of Catalan separatists entangled in legal issues resulting from the region’s unlawful 2017 secession attempt—a crisis that ignited Spain’s most significant political turmoil in decades.
The proposed amnesty holds implications for Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan regional president and a fugitive from Spanish law. Currently residing in Belgium, Puigdemont fled six years ago following an illegal secession referendum and a futile declaration of independence, prompting Spanish authorities to pursue him.
Sánchez, engaged in a heated debate, expressed his vision for fostering a harmonious and forgiving coexistence. He emphasized the belief in a united Spain as a superior entity, dismissing the hard-line stance of the Popular Party, which, according to Sánchez, inadvertently swayed more Catalans toward separatism during its governance.
Acknowledging the benefits of the proposed amnesty, Sánchez noted its potential positive impact on various individuals, including political leaders with dissenting ideologies. The amnesty’s scope extends to hundreds of citizens caught up in the political upheaval, encompassing national police and Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan regional police), who endured the fallout of an unfortunate crisis.
Street Protests and Accusations
Despite Sánchez’s assertion of the bill’s legality and alignment with Spain’s Constitution, judges within Spain and the European Union are scrutinizing the proposed amnesty. The contentious agreement has triggered street protests in Madrid and Barcelona, with accusations from the Popular Party and Vox alleging betrayal for the sake of political power.
Popular Party leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo criticized Sánchez for a sudden policy reversal, condemning it as “electoral fraud” and “political corruption.” Vox leader Santiago Abascal went further, accusing Sánchez of orchestrating a coup d’etat and drawing comparisons to Hitler.
Amidst tight security during the parliamentary debate, hundreds protested against Sánchez near the parliament building. The prime minister highlighted the economic and social progress during his term, positioning his government as the only effective bulwark against what he labeled as the reactionary and negationist agenda of the Popular Party and Vox.
Future Challenges and Referendum Pressure
If Sánchez fails to secure the necessary votes on Thursday, he gets a second chance on Saturday. The deal with separatists hinges on their support for the coalition government over a four-year term.
However, Gabriel Rufián, spokesman for the Republic Left of Catalonia, underscored the ongoing pressure on Sánchez from separatists, emphasizing their persistent push for an authorized independence referendum for Catalonia.
“Today we were able to force you to end the repression (with the amnesty),” Rufián stated. “Maybe we will also be able to force you to let us vote in a referendum.”
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