Spanish PM signs deal with separatists to secure support for new government

Acting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez signed an agreement Friday with a small Basque party that ensures him enough parliamentary support to be reelected, possibly next week.

The deal between Sánchez´s Socialist party and the Basque Nationalist Party means that Sánchez should be able to count on the support of 178 legislators, two more than the majority he needs in the 350-seat Parliament to be chosen as the next prime minister. Sánchez has been in office since 2018.

On Thursday, the Socialists clinched the support in Parliament of a fringe Catalan separatist party led by fugitive former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont in exchange for an amnesty for potentially thousands of people involved in the region’s failed secession bid.

Details of an amnesty bill have yet to be released but it stands to benefit Puigdemont and scores of others, 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. Given that he is considered an enemy of the state for many Spaniards, any deal that benefits him is politically toxic.

Pedro Sánchez, left, and Andoni Ortuzar sign an agreement for the investiture, in Madrid, on Friday. Eduardo Parra / Sipa via AP The amnesty has raised the ire of Spain’s two main opposition parties, the right-of-center Popular Party and the extreme right Vox group. It has also roused discontent in the judiciary and police unions.

Tens of thousands of people have rallied in Madrid and Barcelona against the amnesty in recent weeks.

Violence broke out late Thursday night outside the Socialist Party’s headquarters after four consecutive nights of protests. Bottles, beer cans and fireworks were thrown at a heavy police cordon, and officers moved in using batons to break up the protests and make arrests. More protests are planned for Friday and over the weekend.

Sánchez, who formerly opposed an amnesty, insists now it is needed for a return to normal political life in Catalonia and will benefit Spain.

The deals signed so far mean the Socialists, who won 121 seats in July elections, can count on 57 seats from six smaller parties for the investiture vote. But it remains to be seen if the group will stay intact for the entire four-year parliamentary term.

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