Spain's Sanchez wins support for PM bid amid anger over Catalan amnesty vow


  • World
  • Friday, 10 Nov 2023

FILE PHOTO: Spain's acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez attends a press conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel on the day of the informal meeting of European heads of state or government, in Granada, Spain October 6, 2023. REUTERS/Jon Nazca/File Photo

MADRID (Reuters) -Spain's acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez looked assured of another term in office on Friday after securing the backing of two more regional parties, but it comes amid widespread anger over his pledge of amnesty for Catalan separatists.

The confirmed support of the National Basque Party (PNV) and the Canaries' Coalition, along with that of Catalan separatist party Junts confirmed on Thursday, would give Sanchez an absolute majority in the 350-member lower house in a vote due to take place in the coming days.

"We have managed to secure a majority that will make possible the investiture of Pedro Sanchez," acting minister for parliamentary relations Felix Bolanos said in an interview with SER radio station.

The more complicated deal was the one secured on Thursday with Junts, which includes passing a contentious law granting amnesty to those convicted over Catalonia's attempt to secede from Spain in 2017.

"We have very far apart and different positions but this deal means we are doing our best to understand each other. Spain and Catalonia deserve that," Bolanos said.

Opinion polls have painted a picture of a country divided over the question of amnesty, even within the ranks of the Socialist Party.

A Metroscopia survey in September showed 70% of Spaniards – including 59% of Socialist supporters - were against an amnesty.

Another poll in mid-October for La Sexta TV, however, suggested the country was more evenly divided, with 50.8% rejecting the amnesty and 49% backing it - though support reached 70% within Catalonia.

On Nov. 5, a Sigma Dos survey similarly found that 51% would reject an amnesty - including 40% of socialist voters.

After an inconclusive election held on July 23, Sanchez's Socialist Party spent weeks negotiating with smaller parties including far-left platform Sumar and Catalan, Galician and Basque nationalist parties, most of which had supported Sanchez early in 2020 for his previous term.

With Junts and PNV and the national and regional left-wing parties, Sanchez would win an absolute majority of 178 out of 350 lawmakers.

Later on Friday, the Socialist Party added one vote more to its wide coalition after Canary Islands' regionalist party Coalicion Canaria also agreed to back Sanchez.

Bolanos said the Catalan amnesty law would help ease tension in Catalonia as it would free school directors, firefighters and other civil servants who helped organise an illegal referendum on the region's independence in 2017 from legal proceedings.

The most divisive aspect of the proposed amnesty though is it would allow Catalan separatist leaders such as Junts head Carles Puigdemont, who fled the country in the wake of the referendum and a short-lived unilateral independence declaration, to run for office again.

Sanchez's conservative opponents have accused him of putting the rule of law on the line for his own political gain. Spanish judges have also said an amnesty would be a violation of the principles of constitutional checks and balances.

A police group, APROGC, on Friday said it was ready to "shed every last drop of our blood" to defend the "sovereignty and independence of Spain", prompting the Interior Ministry to order an investigation into whether the group breached police neutrality, according to newspaper El Mundo.

As a deal between Junts and the Socialists edged nearer in the past week, the mood in the country became increasingly febrile, with protesters clashing with police outside the Socialists' headquarters in Madrid each evening.

Police fired rubber bullets, 24 people were arrested and seven police officers were lightly wounded on Thursday evening, authorities said, as officers tried to break up the demonstration.

(Reporting by Belen Carreno, Emma Pinedo, Inti Landauro, David Latona and Jessica Jones; Editing by Aislinn Laing, Toby Chopra, Nick Macfie, Hugh Lawson and Andrea Ricci)

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