Upward of 80,000 residents of Spain voiced their dissent against the Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s announcement granting amnesty to Catalonian separatists in order to garner political influence over the Catalonian parliamentary members.
Catalonia, which an autonomous region of Spain, is located in the northeastern part of the country. It is home to 7.5 million people, making up 15 percent of Spain’s total population, according to Al Jazeera. This affluent region has demonstrated a desire to separate as an independent country for decades, due to the belief that they contribute more to Spain’s economic framework than it receives in return. Notably, in 2017, a breakaway referendum took place, resulting in political authorities receiving heavy sentences for sedition and misuse of public funds during the referendum as reported by BBC News.
In 2010, amid an economic crisis in Spain, another independence campaign took place, where nearly one million Catalonian people took to the streets advocating for autonomy from Madrid. Subsequently, in 2017, the quest for independence rekindled again, marked by an illegal secession bid by the Catalonian people, which almost brought Spain to the brink of collapse as reported by The Atlantic. This organization was under the direction of Carles Puigdemont, who following the 2017 bid, fled the country. Since fleeing, Puigdemont has been residing in Waterloo, Belgium, where he has sustained and expanded support for the Catalonian independence movement, with the group being known as the Junts (Together) party says The Associated Press. Now, nearly one thousand miles away, Puigdemont’s influence exerts a substantive impact on the outcome of the political composition of Spain.
The Junts party, which Puigdemont leads, maintains a notable presence of seven members in Spain’s parliamentary committee. It is through these seats that Adolfo Sanchez, a socialist, secured another term as Prime Minister with a political upset against the Popular Party, reports The Guardian. This win was largely because of the promise of amnesty to the Junts party once elected. “This is a major victory for the left,” Dr. Jason Xidias, a Political Science professor at New York University’s Madrid campus states.
Sanchez garnered the endorsement of the Catalonian people through the pardoning of nine imprisoned Catalonian politicians, including the former regional vice president of Sant Vicenc dels Horts in Catalonia, Oriol Junqueras, reports Reuters. Although the Junts per Catalunya party spokesperson, Miriam Nogueras called this support of Sanchez “conditional,” it nonetheless facilitated his continuation in office to serve another term as Prime Minister.
This controversial political move split the nation, reflecting the sentiments of Spain’s far-right opposition parties which makes up approximately half of the country’s population. Furthermore, many members of Spain’s judiciaries and police force are also opposed reports The Associated Press. In response to the pardoning of these political detainees, a reported 6,000 people protested in Barcelona, about 30,000 turned out in Granada, and 50,000 in Seville according to The New York Times. Addressing a crowd in Madrid, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, the leader of the conservative Popular Party, said “The office of prime minister of Spain can’t be an object to be bought and sold.”