European leaders meet in Granada

Acting Spanish 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 acquires licensing rights

MADRID, Nov 10 (Reuters) – Spain’s interim Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez appeared assured of a new term on Friday after winning the support of two other regional parties, but it comes amid widespread anger over his promise to amnesty for Catalan separatists.

The confirmed support of the Basque National Party (PNV) and the Canary Islands Coalition, as well as that of the Catalan separatist party Junts confirmed on Thursday, would give Sanchez an absolute majority among the 350 members of the lower house in a vote which will take place in the days to come.

“We managed to obtain a majority that will make possible the inauguration of Pedro Sánchez,” said interim Minister of Parliamentary Relations, Félix Bolanos, in an interview with SER radio.

The most complicated deal was the one reached Thursday with Junts, which includes the adoption of a controversial law granting amnesty to those convicted of Catalonia’s attempted secession from Spain in 2017.

“We have very distant and different positions, but this agreement means that we are doing our best to understand each other. Spain and Catalonia deserve it,” Bolanos said.

Opinion polls paint a picture of a country divided on the issue of amnesty, even within the Socialist Party.

A Metroscopia poll carried out in September showed that 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% supporting it – although support reached 70% in Catalonia.

On November 5, a Sigma Dos survey also found that 51% of voters would reject an amnesty, including 40% of Socialist voters.

After inconclusive elections held on July 23, Sanchez’s Socialist Party spent weeks negotiating with smaller parties, including the far-left Sumar Platform and the Catalan, Galician and Basque nationalist parties, most of which had supported Sanchez in early 2020 for his previous mandate.

With Junts, the PNV and the national and regional left-wing parties, Sánchez would obtain an absolute majority of 178 out of 350 deputies.

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

Bolanos said the Catalan amnesty law would help ease tensions in Catalonia because it would free from prosecution school principals, firefighters and other officials who helped organize an illegal referendum on independence of the region in 2017.

The most controversial aspect of the proposed amnesty is that it would allow Catalan separatist leaders such as Junts leader Carles Puigdemont, who fled the country following the referendum and a short unilateral declaration of independence , 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 also said an amnesty would violate the principles of constitutional checks and balances.

A police group, the APROGC, declared itself on Friday ready to “shed until the last drop of its blood” to defend the “sovereignty and independence of Spain”, prompting the Ministry of the Interior to order an investigation to determine whether the group violated police neutrality, according to the newspaper El Mundo.

As an agreement between Junts and the Socialists moved closer last week, the mood in the country became increasingly feverish, with clashes between protesters and police outside the Socialists’ headquarters in Madrid every evening.

Police fired rubber bullets, 24 people were arrested and seven officers were lightly injured Thursday evening, authorities said, as officers tried to disperse the protest.

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

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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