16th April 2024
Míriam Nogueras
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‘Junts per Catalunya’ vote against amnesty bill on grounds it doesn’t go far enough

The Spanish Congress on Tuesday rejected a controversial amnesty law after the Catalan pro-independence party, Junts per Catalunya (JxCat), who had demanded it, finally voted against it on the grounds that it doesn’t go far enough.

The bill will now be sent back to a parliamentary commission in a major setback for socialist (PSOE) Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez that yet again highlights the fragility of his parliamentary support.

The bill was rejected by 179 votes to 171 in the 350-seat parliament, where Sánchez’s minority coalition government between the PSOE and left-wing alliance of Sumar is dependent on a patchwork of support to pass legislation.

The law will apply to those wanted by the justice system over the 2017 Catalan independence bid, first and foremost the exiled leader of the hardline JxCat party, Carles Puigdemont. He was the Catalan president in 2017 and fled to Belgium to avoid prosecution.

Although JxCat had demanded the law in exchange for its parliamentary support to secure Sánchez another term in office, it tipped the balance by voting against the bill on Tuesday after its last-minute amendments were rejected.

‘This text is a good starting point … but it has holes that Spain’s prejudiced justice system can use to leave the amnesty in tatters,’ JxCat lawmaker Miriam Nogueras (main image) told MPs in the debate. ‘We are not terrorists,’ she said.

The amendments sought to rule out the exclusion of Puigdemont, who is facing several legal probes over the independence bid. ALSO READ: Judges extend probes into Puigdemont’s alleged ‘Kremlin ties’ and ‘Tsunami terrorism’.

Even if the bill eventually passes, it will face numerous hurdles before becoming law.

The main opposition, the right-wing People’s Party (PP), has vowed to slow the bill’s passage through the Senate, where it holds an absolute majority.

‘It doesn’t matter whether the bill passes or not … We are going to appeal against it in every possible way and we’re going to ask for EU protection,’ PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo said.

The PP has already modified the procedural rules in the upper chamber and will request opinions and reports before amending it and sending it back to MPs for a final vote.

The measure has also drawn fierce opposition from some members of the judiciary and is facing legal challenges that could jeopardise its future.

The PSOE and both JxCat and fellow Catalan pro-independence party Esquerra Republicana (ERC) introduced several amendments to the text of the draft law in recent weeks to protect it from being declared unconstitutional by the judges. ALSO READ: Spanish government tweaks terrorism clauses in draft amnesty law.

However, JxCat declared themselves not satisfied with these changes and want the law to remove any reference to terrorism as an exception to its application, as this could result in Puigdemont not benefiting from the law.

The PSOE refused to make any further amendments because they believe that removing terrorism from the exclusions of the amnesty law would cause the amnesty to get stuck in Spain’s Constitutional Court

With JxCat voting ‘no’, the law will now return to the Justice Committee of the Spanish Congress. Negotiations can again take place based on the original text, with the law possibly returning to Congress in weeks.

If JxCat and the PSOE eventually reach another agreement and the bill is approved, it will then go to the Senate, where the PP will try and delay it.

The bill will then return to the Spanish Congress, where it is likely to be approved definitively. After the parliamentary process, however, the bill could still face challenges from judges who may deem it unconstitutional. 

ALSO READ: Amnesty bill registered in Spanish Congress – full details.

ALSO READ: Pedro Sánchez faces backlash and tough legislature ahead due to Catalan deal.

ALSO READ: The PSOE and Junts sign a pact that will guarantee investiture of Pedro Sánchez.

Click here for all our reports related to Catalan independence.


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