The socialist government of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez suffered a major blow this week as his Catalan separatists amnesty bill, which he promised in order to form a coalition government, was shot down in parliament by the separatist party that had backed the formation of the government in the first place.
Demonstrating the fragility of the coalition government Sánchez cobbled together following last year’s elections, in which the centre-right People’s Party (PP) won the most votes but fell short of enough seats to form a government, the Catalonia-based leftist-separatist Junts party broke ranks and voted down the amnesty bill put forward by the government they voted to install, El Mundo reports.
The Junts party (Together for Catalonia) is led by former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who is currently living in exile as a fugitive in Belgium in order to avoid prosecution for treason over attempts to see Catalonia secede from the rest of Spain in 2017.
The party agreed to back Sánchez in his quest for a third government in November after the socialist PM agreed to introduce amnesty legislation for the Catalan separatists, many of whom are accused of involvement in terrorist attacks in addition to the treasonous support of breaking the country apart. The move by Sánchez, described by many as a craven political tactic to remain in power, sparked weeks of protests from conservatives and populists on the streets of Madrid, warning that the move would fundamentally undermine the rule of law.
Yet, rather than Sanchéz’s amnesty bill being blocked by conservatives, in a dramatic turn of events, it was the Junts party that voted down the measure, arguing that it did not go far enough to ensure that separatists would not face prosecution and therefore would violate their post-election support agreement.
Prior to the vote on Tuesday, Puigdemont said that he “valued the efforts” made by Sanchéz’s government operating under in a “hostile context” but ultimately told his party not to back the bill.
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— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) November 14, 2023
Junts general secretary Jordi Turull said that while he would have received amnesty under the bill, the party believed that under the current wording of the Amnesty Law, Puigdemont and Republican Left of Catalonia leader Marta Rovira, who is living in Switzerland, and other low-level operatives would be “left out” of the bill and therefore still face the possibility of jail time.
Junts appears to be confident that they will be able to get the concessions desired in the coming weeks, with Turull saying that he is “convinced” the socialists will cave to their demands and that the outstanding issues “will be resolved”.
Deputy Prime Minister María Jesús Montero said on Wednesday that “there must always be room for negotiation when time passes and there is a clear desire for dialogue on both sides” and that “there are always conditions to be able to continue incorporating issues that, as we always said, had to do with technical issues.”
However, the government has also indicated that it will not bend completely to the will of Junts, saying that it continues to oppose blanket amnesty for all of those accused of terrorism as Puigdemont’s party has demanded. The socialist government has tried to argue that the deal would be the best that the separatists could hope for, given that the centre-right People’s Party and the populist Vox on the other side of the debate are in favour of “imprisoning their leaders and outlawing their parties”.
Despite the major setback for the government, Sanchéz has shot down suggestions that the failure would result in more elections, with a spokesman for the socialist PM saying: “The duration of the legislature is not decided by any political group. The duration of the legislature is decided by the President of the Government and that is why we will be governing for three and a half years.”
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— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) November 18, 2023
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