Pro-separatist victory in elections in Catalonia ripples through Spain
BARCELONA, Spain (AP)-A man spending his nights in a prison cell for sedition is in the hands of the future government of Spain’s restive Catalonia region.
Oriol Junqueras was given an open prison regime in late January after serving one-fourth of his 13-year term for his role in a 2017 secession attempt, ensuring he would spend daytime outside prison. He devotes most of the time, within and outside, to leading Catalonia’s Republican Left, the party now poised to select its governing partners after the inconclusive regional election this weekend boosted the strength of the separatists.
Although Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s pro-union Socialist Party won a slim victory in the vote, candidate Salvador Illa’s journey to forming a government is very difficult.
The Socialists were bound by the Republican Left of Catalonia in seats, with each expected to send 33 representatives each to the regional legislature. But, thanks to the strong showing of its brethren in the separatist camp, which increased its power in Sunday’s election after years of thwarted aspirations to establish a new Mediterranean republic, it has more potential partners to woo into a coalition.
The three major parties that want to establish a Catalan state, on the back of a record low turnout, increased their power to 74 lawmakers in the 135-seat Barcelona-based parliament, up from 70 in 2017.
On Monday morning, Junqueras told Catalan public television that the Republican Left of Catalonia will aim to forge a “broad” coalition to make candidate Pere Aragonès the next regional president of Catalonia, granted leave by the penitentiary authorities to spend election night with his party members.
“I have no doubt that the other political forces will do what they should, which is give their support to the most-voted pro-secession party,” said Junquera. “Our convictions are clear, firm, and unwavering to the point that we have sacrificed our personal liberty for them.”
Junqueras refused the possible option of forming a coalition with the Socialists, which rejects the aim of the separatists of holding an official referendum on independence while sharing left-wing social policies.
Junqueras and other separatists reported that after all the ballots cast for pro-secession parties exceeded 50 percent of the popular vote for the first time, pro-secession sentiment has increased. However, a record low turnout of 53 percent, down from 79 percent in December 2017, seemed to benefit the separatists, provided that attendance in the cities where pro-union parties are doing better dropped most sharply.
“Breaking 50 percent is important so we can convince those that do not want independence and make them reflect on what we should do,” he said.
The celebration of the separatists was felt in Madrid.
In its policy of holding talks with the separatists and negotiating agreements with the Republic Left of Catalonia to pass legislation, after winning over moderate unionist voters, Spain’s coalition government of Sánchez’s Socialists and the leftist United We Can appeared vindicated.
The other end of the political spectrum of Spain was shaken.
By joining the Catalan parliament with an unprecedented 11 seats, the far-right Vox party, with its unabashed hardline stance against Catalan secession and illegal immigration, verified its rise across Spain.