Elections in Catalonia: separatists lose their majority

The independence parties, which have ruled Catalonia for a decade, lost their majority in the regional Parliament on Sunday May 12, according to the almost final results of the regional elections won by the socialists of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, six and a half years later the secession attempt of 2017

Elections in Catalonia: separatists lose their majority

The independence parties, which have ruled Catalonia for a decade, lost their majority in the regional Parliament on Sunday May 12, according to the almost final results of the regional elections won by the socialists of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, six and a half years later the secession attempt of 2017. Welcoming a “historic” result on the X platform, Mr. Sánchez considered that a “new stage [was opening] in Catalonia”.

The three independence groups having so far the majority of seats have only obtained 59 while the absolute majority is set at 68. During the previous regional election in February 2021, these three groups had obtained a total of 74 seats, allowing for the independence bloc to continue to rule the region.

Still under arrest warrant in Spain, Carles Puigdemont campaigned from the south of France and was playing big in this election. He assured that he would withdraw from local politics if he failed to regain the seat of regional president that he occupied in 2017.

In detail, his party, Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia), gained ground by obtaining 35 seats (3). The other major separatist party, ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia) of the current regional president Pere Aragonès, has lost a lot of ground and obtained 20 seats (− 13) while the other far-left independence party CUP has obtained 4 seats. Even counting the two seats of the Catalan Alliance, a new far-right separatist formation with which Junts, ERC and the CUP have assuredly refused to ally, the separatists remain far from the absolute majority.

“The candidacy that I led obtained a good result, we are the only pro-independence force to increase in votes and seats, and we assume the responsibility that this implies,” said Mr. Puigdemont. “But this is not enough to compensate for the losses of other pro-independence parties,” he admitted.

A necessary alliance to find for the socialists

Arriving clearly in the lead, the Socialists of Pedro Sánchez obtained 42 seats (compared to 33 in 2021), but the candidate Salvador Illa, former Minister of Health during the Covid 19 pandemic, will have to find partners to articulate a majority . In 2021, he had already won these elections but was unable to be installed as regional president, in a predominantly pro-independence parliament.

The most credible hypothesis, according to analysts, would be an alliance with the radical left, with which Mr. Sánchez governs Spain, but also with ERC, the most moderate party among the separatists, which would thus choose to put an end to the unit of the block. These three parties together hold just an absolute majority with 68 seats.

Pedro Sánchez had made this election a central issue of his mandate, hoping to show that Catalonia had turned its back on its separatist desires. “Catalonia has decided to open a new era,” Mr. Illa declared at the party headquarters in front of his supporters. “Catalan voters have decided that the Socialist Party will lead this new era and I intend to become the next president of Catalonia,” he added.

Populated by eight million inhabitants, this rich region of northeastern Spain, which is one of the country's economic and industrial engines, attempted to secede in 2017, when Carles Puigdemont was at the head of the region. This crisis was one of the worst experienced by Spain since the country's return to democracy after the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975.

Breakthrough of the conservatives of the People's Party

Determined to “close the wounds” opened by this political crisis, Mr. Sánchez pardoned in 2021 the independence leaders sentenced to prison and agreed last year to pass an amnesty law for all separatists pursued by the courts , in exchange for the support of their parties for his renewal for a new four-year term.

This amnesty must be definitively voted on by MPs in the coming weeks and allow the return to Catalonia of Carles Puigdemont, leader of the secession attempt who fled the region in 2017 to settle in Belgium to escape prosecution judicial. A very controversial measure, it brought the right and far-right opposition into the streets who accuse the Prime Minister, supported in the Spanish Parliament by Junts and ERC, of ​​having become their "hostage" with the simple aim of maintain power.

This election was also marked by a breakthrough for the conservative People's Party (PP), who obtained 15 seats compared to 3 in 2021 while the far-right Vox party held on with 11 seats.