MADRID (AP) — Spain's Socialist Party has struck a deal with a fringe Catalan separatist party to grant an amnesty for potentially thousands of people involved in the region's failed secession bid in exchange for its key backing of acting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez in forming a new government.
Socialist lawmaker and party official Santos Cerdán announced the deal on Thursday in Brussels after sealing the agreement with the party led by Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium after leading the failed 2017 independence attempt for Catalonia.
“This a political agreement and an agreement for an amnesty,” Cedrán said.
The decision greatly boosts Sánchez’s chances of forming another minority leftist coalition government. Sánchez, a Socialist and Spain’s leader since 2018, still needs the backing a small Basque party but he is likely to achieve that.
An amnesty has been the crucial part of difficult negotiations by representatives of Sánchez’s caretaker leftist government to win the support of two Catalan pro-independence parties. The backing of Puigdemont’s Junts (Together) and their rival Republican Left of Catalonia party, which gave its backing to Sánchez last week, is vital if Sánchez is to be reelected prime minister following an inconclusive national election in July.
While the two radical parties hold just seven seats each in the 350-member parliament, only they can put Sánchez over the necessary threshold of 176 votes in an investiture session that is expected to be held in the coming days. If no government can be formed by Nov. 27, the parliament would be dissolved and new elections called for January.
The amnesty would benefit Puigdemont and scores of people, from minor government officials to ordinary citizens, who ran into legal trouble for their roles in Catalonia’s illegal secession attempt that brought Spain to the brink of rupture six years ago.
Spain’s courts are still trying to have Puigdemont extradited from Belgium, where he fled in 2017 to avoid arrest. Given that he is considered an enemy of the state for many Spaniards, any deal that benefits him is politically toxic.
Cedrán said the amnesty legislation, which will need the support of several smaller left-wing and regionalist parties to be passed, will cover all crimes and alleged crimes related to the Catalan separatist movement from 2012 until now.
“Six years have passed (since the secession attempt) and the conflict is still unresolved,” Cedrán said. “Our goal is to start a new chapter … where the errors of the past are no longer obstacles to overcome.”
Wilson reported from Barcelona, Spain.
Ciarán Giles And Joseph Wilson, The Associated Press