Catalans vote in election to gauge force of separatist movement, degree of reconciliation with Spain

A total of nine parties are running and no single one is expected to come close to winning enough votes to reach the absolute majority of 68 seats in the chamber.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and socialist candidate, Salvador Illa wave to the crowd during a campaign rally in Villanova i la Gertru, near Barcelona, Spain, Thursday,
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and socialist candidate, Salvador Illa wave to the crowd during a campaign rally in Villanova i la Gertru, near Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Photo | AP

BARCELONA: Catalonia is holding a regional election on Sunday whose outcome will reverberate in Spain’s national politics.

The ballot will be a test both for the strength of the separatist movement in the wealthy northeastern part of Spain and for the policies of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

More than 5.7 million voters are eligible to choose lawmakers for the regional parliament based in Barcelona.

Separatists have held the regional government for more than a decade. But polling and a national election in July show that support for secession has shrunk somewhat since former regional president Carles Puigdemont led an illegal – and futile – breakaway bid in 2017.

Puigdemont is a fugitive from Spain's laws since he fled the country days after his failed secession attempt. But that isn't stopping him from running in this election as he campaigns from southern France. He has said that he will return to Spain when the newly elected lawmakers convene to choose a regional president at some point after the election.

By that time, Puigdemont hopes to be cleared of any legal troubles after Spain’s parliament gives final approval to a contentious amnesty for him and hundreds of other separatists.

The amnesty forms part of Sánchez’s intense push to reduce tensions in Catalonia that also included the pardoning of jailed high-profile separatists. If voters don't validate that by coming out in support of his Socialist party, then it would be a blow to the leader who heads a minority coalition in Madrid.

Sánchez has campaigned alongside Salvador Illa, the candidate of the Socialists. Illa won the most votes in a 2021 regional election but was unable to stop separatist Pere Aragonès from forming a government.

The election will feature a battle inside the separatist camp between Puigdemont’s conservative Together party and Aragonès’s Republican Left of Catalonia.

An upstart pro-secession, far-right party called Catalan Alliance, which rails against unauthorized immigration as well as the Spanish state, will hope to earn parliamentary representation.

A total of nine parties are running and no single one is expected to come close to winning enough votes to reach the absolute majority of 68 seats in the chamber. So deal-making will be critical.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and socialist candidate, Salvador Illa wave to the crowd during a campaign rally in Villanova i la Gertru, near Barcelona, Spain, Thursday,
Separatists protest Spanish royals' visit to rural Catalonia

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