1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Spain's Socialists reach deal with Catalan party

November 9, 2023

Spain's Socialist Party has struck a deal with a Catalan separatist party to grant an amnesty for those involved in the region's failed secession bid.

The first vice president of the Senate and president of the PSOE, Cristina Narbona, and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez
The Socialist Party, led by Pedro Sanchez, came second in the general election, but has more options to form a coalitionImage: Europa Press/ABACA/picture alliance

Spanish Socialist lawmaker Santos Cerdan announced the agreement on Thursday in Brussels after reaching an amnesty deal wih Catalonia's Junts (Together) party led by Carles Puigdemont.

The decision significantly boosts Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's chances of forming another minority leftist coalition government.

Spanish Prime Minister Sanchez strikes deal to stay in power

Why is the agreement so important?

The pro-independence Catalan group Omnium Cultural says the amnesty could apply to more than 4,000 people, mostly minor officials and ordinary citizens who took part in a 2017 outlawed secession referendum in the northeastern region of Catalonia. The amnesty would also cover events before the vote, going back to 2012. 

The controversial amnesty has been a sticking point in the tricky negotiations between the Socialists and Junts, whose support is vital for Sanchez to form a viable coalition. Opponents of the move say it runs contrary to the rule of law and amounts to exchanging votes for impunity.

The Socialists, currently in charge of a caretaker government, have already reached an agreement with the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC).

Sanchez needs to secure support from at least 176 lawmakers within the 350-seat legislature to win an investiture key vote before November 27.

Sanchez, who has led Spain since 2018, still needs the backing of the small Basque PNV party, but he appears likely to achieve that.

Should he fail, Spain would automatically be forced to hold new elections.

Junts' leader Puigdemont is among those who look set to benefit from the amnesty, having fled to Belgium after he led the failed independence attempt for Catalonia in 2017.

If congress approves the amnesty, Puigdemont would be able to return to Spain and could even run for office.

Who opposes the deal?

The leader of far-right party Vox, Santiago Abascal, warned that Sanchez threatened Spanish unity, accusing him of only seeking an amnesty "to remain in power."

Meanwhile, the main opposition conservative Popular Party (PP) held a protest against the proposed amnesty on Sunday in the southern city of Malaga, which it claimed drew more than 20,000 people.

'Virtue out of necessity'

During his time in office, Sanchez has sought to ease separatist tensions and, in 2021, pardoned top Catalan separatist leaders who were sentenced to long prison terms over the secession bid.

In a speech to Socialist party members on Saturday, the Spanish prime minister defended the need for an amnesty, arguing the 2021 pardons had "undeniably" helped calm tensions.

"We can't leave this wound open indefinitely," he added. "We must make a virtue out of necessity."

rc/nm (Reuters, AP)