Spain Socialists win Catalan vote as separatists lose ground


In the recent regional election in Catalonia, Spain, the Socialist party led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez emerged victorious, marking a significant shift in the political landscape. The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), headed by former Spanish health minister Salvador Illa, made significant gains and secured 42 seats in the regional parliament with 99% of votes counted.

Support for Catalonia’s independence has decreased notably, dropping from 49% in 2017 to 42% according to the Catalan government’s statistics institute. This election saw a shift in focus from the independence issue to other pressing concerns like the region’s severe drought and housing crisis.

  • Catalan Socialist Party (PSC): Secured 42 seats, emerging as the clear winner.
  • Together for Catalonia (JxCat): Led by former regional president Carles Puigdemont, came second with 35 seats, reclaiming its position as the main pro-independence force.
  • Catalan Republican Left (ERC): Lost ground and slipped behind JxCat.

Nationalist parties overall saw a reduction in support, losing control of the regional parliament. This outcome represents a setback for the independence movement, which has been a significant force in Catalan politics. Despite this, pro-independence parties have previously managed to secure substantial concessions from the central government, including a demand for an independence referendum.

The minority government of ERC’s Pere Aragonès called for this snap election after failing to pass the region’s annual budget. The results are seen as a validation of Prime Minister Sánchez’s policies in Catalonia, especially the controversial amnesty law designed to benefit nationalists facing legal action for their separatist activities.

The amnesty law, which is making its way through the Spanish parliament, has been a point of contention. It was a condition for the parliamentary support that JxCat and ERC provided to Sánchez during his investiture, enabling him to form a new central government last November. This law is expected to benefit figures like Carles Puigdemont, who fled Spain in 2017 following a failed secession attempt. Puigdemont, currently in exile in France, campaigned ahead of this election.

Although the Socialists won, forming a new government will be challenging for Salvador Illa. He will likely need the support of ERC and the far-left Comuns Sumar alliance. Puigdemont has called for ERC to avoid forming a coalition with the unionist PSC and suggested that the two main pro-independence parties (JxCat and ERC) should attempt to rebuild their previous coalition, despite their past disagreements.

The fragmented Catalan parliament, divided along unionist-separatist lines as well as left-right political affiliations, is expected to face lengthy negotiations. If an administration cannot be formed, Catalonia will face another election.

Gains and Losses Among Other Parties

  • People’s Party (PP): The conservative party made substantial gains, becoming the fourth-largest party in Catalonia.
  • Vox: The far-right party followed the PP in the rankings.
  • Ciudadanos: This centrist party lost its representation in the parliament, a significant decline from seven years ago when it was a primary force in the region.
  • Catalan Alliance: A new far-right party, won two seats with a platform based on strict separatism and anti-immigrant policies.

Salvador Illa described the election result as ushering in “a new era for Catalonia”. He attributed the success to the policies implemented by the Spanish government and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, expressing his gratitude for their support. The results indicate a shift in Catalonia’s political dynamics, moving away from the intense focus on independence to addressing other critical regional issues.

With the Socialists’ win, Catalonia enters a period of potential political realignment. The decrease in support for pro-independence parties and the increased focus on other issues might lead to a more balanced and pragmatic approach to governance in the region. However, the complexities of forming a coalition government and the ongoing debates around the independence movement suggest that Catalonia’s political landscape will continue to evolve in the coming months.


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