A socialist Spanish politician is expected to take over as prime minister by the end of Thursday after reaching a controversial agreement with Catalan separatists.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will run for a new term in parliament on Thursday after concluding a controversial agreement with Catalan separatists.
In return for support from Sanchez’s Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), nationalists in the Spanish region of Catalonia obtained a commitment from the PSOE leader to pass an amnesty law that would pardon those linked to Catalonia’s failed independence struggle six years ago.
More than 300 people accused of crimes related to Catalan independence in the period from January 1, 2012 to November 13, 2023 could benefit from the new provisions.
These episodes included crimes during the unsanctioned referendum in October 2017, which was met with heavy police repression in Madrid,
Will Sanchez be re-elected?
Sanchez – Prime Minister of Spain since 2018 – lost in the general elections four months ago to the center-right People’s Party (PP).
However, the PP, unable to form a government, was forced to give way to the PSOE, which in its bid to take power gained the support of Catalan and Basque nationalists and other regional parties.
“I think [Sanchez] his numbers are such that unless unforeseen circumstances arise – which I don’t think are likely – then Pedro Sanchez will do it [again] become Prime Minister of Spain by the end of Thursday,” said Andrew Dowling, a lecturer in Latin American studies at Cardiff University.
Why does support for Catalan nationalists matter?
Sanchez’s decision to take the matter to the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and the center-right Junts per Catalunya – parties supporting Catalan independence – outraged Spanish conservatives, who condemned the amnesty law.
This is despite the fact that one of the ministers in the Spanish government, the Minister of the Presidency and senior PSOE official Felix Bolanos, welcomed the new regulations as a way to “heal the wounds and resolve the existing political conflict in Catalonia.”
Indeed, following the news of Sanchez’s decision to implement a law aimed at pardoning Catalans accused of politically motivated subversion, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Spain on Sunday to express their opposition.
On Tuesday, PP leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo appealed to the European Union itself to intervene, calling the proposed law “an unprecedented situation.”
He complained that “amnesty [bill] it is a direct payment for votes needed in elections [PSOE] form a government. And who pays for it? “The Spanish people, but also, in my opinion, Europe, because the collapse of a democracy like Spain’s… will of course have consequences for European institutions.”
Among those who could be pardoned is former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, the leader of the Junta and the mastermind behind the illegal referendum, now living in exile in Belgium.
What will Sanchez’s likely re-election mean for Spain’s domestic and foreign policy future?
A recent poll showing that 70 percent of the Spanish electorate opposes this law indicates public hostility towards the amnesty law. The judiciary has also signaled its opposition, which means that simply passing the bill in parliament may not be enough for Sanchez to fully honor his commitment.
On the international front, however, the newly elected Sanchez is unlikely to soften his criticism of Israel’s military actions in Gaza. On Wednesday, the leftist leader condemned the Jewish state for the “mass killing of Palestinians” in the enclave and promised to “work in Europe and Spain for the recognition of a Palestinian state.”
Unlike the United States, Britain and Germany, Sanchez also called for an end to the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza, where more than 11,300 people were killed by Israeli airstrikes in retaliation for the October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel.
“We demand an immediate ceasefire on the part of Israel in Gaza and strict compliance with international humanitarian law, which is clearly not being respected today,” he said.
Dowling, author of the 2022 book Catalonia: A New History, told Al Jazeera that a second-term Sanchez government would also continue to be part of a “mainstream Europe” that seeks to “isolate the far right.”
“Spain is largely the main political actor in the European context,” the scientist said. “It also plays a very important role in relations with North Africa and the Arab world. And also, for cultural and historical reasons, with Latin America. So this is kind of the axis of Spanish foreign policy.”