Catalan pro-independence parties set to lose hold on power

Separatist parties appear to be in danger of losing their decade-long hold on power in Spain’s north-eastern Catalonia region as the pro-union Socialist Party is poised to win the most votes in an election on Sunday, according to a near-complete count of the ballots.

The four pro-independence parties, led by the Together party of former regional president Carles Puigdemont, are set to total 61 seats, short of the key figure of 68 seats needed for a majority in the chamber.

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

Carles Puigdemont
Former regional president Carles Puigdemont is living in exile in France, but is still running for election (Joan Mateu/AP)

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

Mr Puigdemont is a fugitive from Spain’s laws since he fled the country days after his failed secession attempt.

But that has not stopped him from running in this election as he campaigns from southern France. He has said he will return to Spain when the newly elected politicians convene to choose a regional president at some point after the election.

By that time, Mr Puigdemont hopes to be cleared of any legal troubles after Spain’s parliament gives final approval to a contentious amnesty for him and hundreds of other separatists.

The amnesty forms part of Mr Sanchez’s intense push to reduce tensions in Catalonia that has also included the pardoning of jailed high-profile separatists.

Pedro Sanchez and Salvador Illa
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, right, has campaigned with socialist candidate Salvador Illa (Emilio Morenatti/AP)

The election also featured a battle inside the separatist camp between Mr Puigdemont’s conservative Together party and Mr Aragones’s Republican Left of Catalonia.

An upstart pro-secession, far-right party called Catalan Alliance, which campaigns against unauthorised immigration as well as the Spanish state, also hopes to earn parliamentary representation.

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