Pedro Sánchez’s Government Formation Hinges on Catalan Parties’ Cooperation

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In an unexpected turn of events, the success of Pedro Sánchez’s pursuit to form a government hinges heavily on the cooperation of two Catalan pro-independence parties. On King Felipe VI’s urging, the present acting Prime Minister, Sanchez, takes a stand to attempt to form a government subsequent to his conservative counterpart’s failure to do so.

The Socialist Leader, who came in second in July’s elections, has displayed an open intention to engage in discussions with all political parties, apart from the far right, in his quest for a second term in office. His runner-up position in the elections has placed him in favorable standing for forming a majority, a feat that appeared more possible for him than his conservative adversary, Alberto Núñez Feijóo.

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Yet, achieving his ambitions is contingent on the crucial backing of Catalan nationalists. Sánchez can only lay claim to the needed 176 parliamentary seats that constitute a majority with the endorsement of the pro-independence, Together for Catalonia (JxCat), and Catalan Republican Left (ERC) parties. Should he fail, a consequent election would be inevitable.

Sánchez, however, remains resolute. He has expressed his readiness to work towards forming a progressive coalition government between the Socialist Party and the left-wing coalition, Sumar. His potential partners are expected to provide ample parliamentary support to ensure the country’s stability.

With a deadline looming on the 27th of November, Sánchez must obtain backing for an investiture vote in parliament, commencing discussions with political factions on Wednesday. Notwithstanding a win for Alberto Núñez Feijóo’s Popular Party in the July polls, the conservative leader fell short by four votes in last week’s parliamentary count.

Sánchez’s prospective success will come at a cost. Holding sway since 2018, he could potentially secure endorsement from Sumar and Basque regional parties. However, the Catalonia independence factions demand an amnesty for separatists implicated in the 2017 independence bid.

The proposed amnesty comes with its own complications. Historical JxCat MPs have sought amnesty for their leader, Carles Puigdemont, who evaded prosecution by fleeing to Belgium following his role in the push for independence. Sanchez has previously made concessions to the independence movement, including issuing pardons to nine jailed Catalan leaders in 2021 and revising the criminal code to decriminalize sedition. Such measures met with considerable opposition, though it did not significantly dent his reputation in the polls.

Though not explicitly using the word “amnesty,” Sánchez promised to be “generous” towards Catalonia’s separatists while also clarifying his stance against a referendum for secession. The public opinion seems to lean away from the issue of amnesty, with polls indicating that over 80% of Spaniards, including Socialist voters, oppose the idea. However, forging ahead with such an initiative might lead to an improved atmosphere in Catalonia, where tensions have greatly reduced since the unsuccessful secession bid.

If Sánchez can form a coalition government, left-wing voters might find solace in the fact that the conservatives, along with the extreme-right Vox party, might be kept out of office for another term. Should he fail, a return to the polls in January seems to be the only option available.