14th June 2024
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Catalan pro-independence parties lose majority, as PSC socialists win elections

Catalan pro-independence parties have lost their decade-long hold of power in Catalonia as the pro-union socialist PSOE party – the Catalan Socialists (PSC) in the region – have won the most votes in an election on Sunday, according to 95% of the votes couned. 

The four pro-independence parties, led by the Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) of former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, are set to acquire a total of 61 seats, short of the key figure of 68 seats needed for a majority in the Catalan Parliament.

The PSC led by former health minister Salvador Illa (main image) are on course to win 42 seats, up from their 33 seats in 2021, when they also barely won the most votes but were unable to form a government.

The PSC will still need to earn the backing of other parties to put Illa in charge. Dealmaking in the coming days, maybe weeks, will be key to forming a government. Neither a hung parliament nor a new election is out of the question.

But Illa’s surge should bode well for Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and the PSOE before a European Parliament election next month.

Pro-independence parties have held power in Catalonia since 2012 and had won majorities in four consecutive regional elections. But polling and a national election in July showed that support for independence has shrunk since Puigdemont led an illegal — and futile — breakaway bid in 2017.

Sánchez’s socialistshave spent major political capital since then in reducing tensions in Catalonia, including pardoning jailed high-profile separatists and pushing through an amnesty for Puigdemont and hundreds more.

More than 5.7 million voters were called to participate. Potentially thousands of voters had trouble reaching their polling stations after Catalonia’s commuter rail service (Rodalies) had to shut down several train lines after what officials said was the robbery of copper cables from a train installation near Barcelona.

The JxCat party of Puigdemont is set to restore its leadership of the pro-independence camp with 35 seats, up from 32 from three years ago. He fled Spain after the 2017 independence attempt and has run his campaign from southern France on the pledge that he will return home when MPs convene to elect a new regional president in the coming weeks.

The Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party of regional president Pere Aragonès plummeted to 20 seats from 33. But the left-way pro-independence party, which has ruled in minority, could be key to Illa’s hopes, although that would require it to break with the pro-secession bloc.

The left-wing Comuns-Sumar’s six seats could also be critical to a possible Illa coalition.

The right-wing People’s Party (PP), which is the largest party in Spain’s national parliament where it leads the opposition, surged to 15 seats from three.

The far-right Vox party held its 11 seats, while on the other end of the spectrum, the far-left, pro-independence CUP took four, down from nine.

An upstart pro-independence, far-right party called Aliança Catalana, which rails against unauthorised immigration as well as the Spanish state, will enter the Catalan parliament for the first time with two seats.

A record drought, not independence, is currently the leading concern of Catalans, according to the most recent survey by Catalonia’s public opinion office.

The opinion office said that 50% of Catalans are against independence while 42% are for it, meaning support for it has dipped to 2012 levels. When Puigdemont left in 2017, 49% favoured independence and 43% were against.

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