Analysis-Spain PM Sanchez’s political gambles face litmus test in Catalan election

By Joan Faus

BARCELONA (Reuters) – Crunch elections in Catalonia subsequent week will test the knowledge of the newest political gambles by Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who goals to make use of the vote to buoy his energy nationally however dangers inadvertently awakening a dormant Catalan separatism.

Sanchez goals to wrest management of the rich area in the May 12 vote from separatists who wield outsized affect over Spanish politics. But if his Socialists carry out poorly, the result may mangle his fragile parliamentary alliances in Madrid and undermine the soundness of his minority authorities.

It may revive Catalan separatism seven years after the problem set off Spain’s worst political disaster in over 30 years.

Opinion polls forecast a snug lead for Socialist candidate Salvador Illa in the election, with the separatist celebration Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), which at present runs the northeastern area, and its extra hardline rival Junts showing neck and neck for second place.

A win would vindicate Sanchez’s conciliatory method to the area’s independence motion, which most just lately included the supply of an amnesty to Catalan separatists in change for his or her backing of his minority administration in Spain’s parliament.

It may also reassure the prime minister that there have been no laborious emotions amongst his supporters, after some had been troubled by the amnesty supply. Sanchez hopes as properly to shore up help throughout the political spectrum, after many Spaniards had been shocked by a five-day break he took from workplace final month to weigh his attainable resignation over what he stated was a smear marketing campaign directed in opposition to him and his household by proper wing opponents.

But if the Socialists are unable to safe the 68 seats required for a majority in the Catalan meeting and must depend on alliances with different events, presumably together with right-wing rivals the People’s Party (PP), their victory may very well be pyrrhic.

Junts has warned that such a take care of the PP would immediate it to withdraw its essential help for Sanchez’s nationwide authorities, blocking the passage of laws in parliament in Madrid and finally making it untenable.

Conversely, ought to separatist events see a late surge in help and are in a position to bury previous enmities to crew up, Sanchez would endure the double blow of dropping the regional contest and seeing a separatist motion acquire recent momentum to push its independence ambitions at a nationwide stage, notably if the victor is the exiled Carles Puigdemont.

Puigdemont, the previous Catalan president who fled to Belgium after spearheading a failed independence bid in 2017, is operating for Junts and seeks a victorious return. The Spanish arrest warrant he faces over these occasions is poised to be lifted by the amnesty, anticipated to come back into power in late May or June.


A Basque Country election final month already underscored the affect regional politics has on nationwide authorities.

The Socialists gained votes in that contest and can return as junior coalition accomplice to the reasonable nationalist PNV, which in flip helps the nationwide authorities.

In Catalonia, the Socialists goal to copy a robust exhibiting in the area in final yr’s nationwide election, after they tallied greater than twice the variety of votes forged for the following hottest celebration — the far-left Sumar — in a consequence learn as signalling a dampening of pro-independence sentiment.

Their objective this time is to acquire greater than 40 seats in the 135-seat regional chamber, stated the Socialist marketing campaign head Lluisa Moret. The Socialists maintain 33 seats in the present Catalan meeting, stage with ERC, whereas Junts has 32.

At a latest rally, Illa, a calm-mannered former nationwide well being minister whose marketing campaign motto is “to unite and serve”, barely talked about Puigdemont and didn’t even discuss with the amnesty that surveys present some socialist voters oppose.

He vowed to maneuver on from a “lost decade” of separatism and concentrate on issues akin to local weather change – a giant concern for Catalonia, dealing with water restrictions after a drought.

“Illa would be a good president because he believes in dialogue. Catalonia is at a moment where it wants reconciliation,” stated rally participant David Carvajal, 20.

Vicenc Redon, 71, stated the amnesty invoice ought to assist mobilize voters for the Socialists, however he warned that separatist sentiment may nonetheless be rekindled if Puigdemont regains the presidency and launches a recent drive to interrupt away from Spain.


Puigdemont has stated he plans to finish his 6-1/2 years of exile in Belgium to attend Catalonia’s subsequent swearing-in session even when the amnesty doesn’t take away the danger of his arrest by then.

He is campaigning from over the border in southern France and Junts has organized buses from Catalonia to his rallies in Argeles-sur-Mer. Puigdemont informed Reuters he wished to attach instantly with voters as an alternative of showing on massive screens.

But he conceded it would not be simple to regain the belief of voters upset over his dealing with of the botched 2017 independence declaration, and any recent independence drive would want “more cunning and better preparation”.

Columnist Josep Ramoneda stated the election will present whether or not voters are nostalgic, or fed up with the 2017 legacy.

“It is a total mistake and will unlikely pay important dividends to Puigdemont to come out with a discourse of ‘we will do it again’,” he stated, saying Catalonia had modified.

(Reporting by Joan Faus, enhancing by Aislinn Laing, William Maclean)

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