Pedro Sánchez reelected prime minister of Spain
Support of Catalan pro-independence parties crucial for new legislature after controversial amnesty deal
Pedro Sánchez has been reelected prime minister of Spain after securing the crucial support of Catalan pro-independence parties.
The Socialist candidate won with a majority of 179 to 171 votes from deputies in the Spanish Congress.
Sánchez’s bid was supported by his own Socialist Party, Sumar, Esquerra Republicana, Junts per Catalunya, EH Bildu, Basque Nationalist Party, Galician Nationalist Bloc, and the Canarian Coalition. The bid was rejected by the People’s Party, Vox, and the Navarrese People's Union.
The parties that supported Sánchez’s bid were voted for by around 12,600,000 citizens in July’s election.
Sánchez closed the debate sessions with a defence of the agreements reached with other parties that he said will allow for a new era of "social policy" and "progress."
He reminded the conservative People's Party that "the sovereignty of Spanish democracy resides in this chamber, which is where the democratic will of the people is expressed." As such, his new government will be "a legitimate, democratic, and constitutional government," responding to the right wing's claims that the new legislature is a "fraud."
Sánchez will form a government along with left-wing platform Sumar, a coalition of various parties across Spain that largely replaced the political space of Podemos, which is now encompassed within Sumar.
However, much like the investiture, the new Spanish government will require the support of numerous parties to pass any laws, including both mainstream Catalan pro-independence groups, Esquerra Republicana (ERC) and Junts per Catalunya, as they don't hold a majority among lawmakers on their own.
To gain the support to name Sánchez prime minister once again, a series of controversial concessions were offered to the pro-independence groups, including an amnesty law which has not yet been ratified, but which has drawn heavy criticism from the Spanish right, leading to many protests, some of which turning violent, across the country in recent weeks.
The proposed amnesty is expected to apply for at least all of the political leadership of the 2017 Catalan independence referendum, which was deemed illegal by Spanish courts. Part of the organizers of that vote were eventually imprisoned for sedition and later pardoned, while another part left the country and still live in exile, including former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont.
Fifteen people were arrested during the 13th night of anti-amnesty protests outside the Socialists' headquarters in Madrid on Wednesday night. Anti-riot police discharged pepper spray and charged with batons, causing the rally of around 2,000 people to quickly break up. This follows similar scenes in the Spanish capital on numerous nights over the past fortnight.
Sánchez secures majority
In his investiture debate speech, Pedro Sánchez defended the amnesty deals reached and his policy of dialogue with Catalan political leaders bringing about the peaceful coexistence that he said exists in the territory today. Responding to the right-wing, Sánchez said that the amnesty law proves the “strength and validity” of the Spanish Constitution.
In Wednesday’s speeches, Catalan pro-independence parties warned Sánchez of the power they will hold through this next legislature.
Esquerra Republicana, the ruling party in the Catalan government currently, said that they can “force” an independence referendum “tomorrow.” ERC spokesperson Gabriel Rufián made several demands of the Socialists, including a raise of taxes on banks, forcing the church to take responsibility for cases of historical sexual abuse, and implementing a better work-life balance with labor reform.
Junts, meanwhile, warned the Socialists early of their displeasure with his references to the amnesty law as “forgiveness,” and reminded the Socialist that he must comply with the investiture agreement with the party. The leader of the pro-independence party in Madrid, Míriam Nogueras, wanted recognition for Catalonia as a nation, and acknowledgement of the historic political roots of the conflict with Spain.
Yolanda Díaz, leader of the left-wing platform Sumar which will enter the coalition government with the Socialists, spoke of her pride in the “historic” occasion. Her speech asserted the need for the new government to pioneer social policies, from feminism to culture, while also taking a swipe at the right’s claims that the amnesty law is “breaking” Spain, saying that the new law makes “democracy win.”
The conservative People’s Party leader, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, used his speech on Wednesday to criticize the proposed amnesty law. Feijóo accused Sánchez of "political corruption" and branded the amnesty bill a "fraud." "Sánchez did not obtain the support of anyone, he bought it. The pro-independence parties squeezed it out of him," Feijóo said.
Leader of the far-right Vox party, Santiago Abascal, compared Sánchez to Adolf Hitler in an incendiary speech that ended up being largely removed from the official record. Abascal railed against what he termed a “coup d’état” and said the amnesty law is a “repeal” of the Constitution.
Thursday's session began with the speech of Basque nationalists Bildu and PNV, followed by the Galician nationalist BNG, all supporting Pedro Sánchez's bid.
Mertxe Aizpurua, spokesperson for Bildu, criticized the People's Party (PP) for using "legal and oligarchic movements and the media" to block Sánchez's candidacy.
"[The PP] rejects an amnesty for people who have not committed a single crime, but praises the 1977 amnesty, which gave total impunity to Francoist crimes," she added.
Aitor Esteban, the PNV's congressional spokesperson, said the amnesty bill was "courageous" and defended the text as constitutional. He criticized the conservatives for using Catalonia as an excuse to call a new election.
"If there is something that threatens the stability of the system, it is not the investiture, but street riots, institutional disrespect and lies," he said.
Next, MPs from the three groups that comprise the Mixed Group addressed the chamber: Nésto Rego (Galician Nationalist Bloc), Cristina Valido (Canarian Coalition) and Alberto Catalán (Navarrese People's Union).
The Canarian Coalition will vote in favor of Sánchez’s PM bid, as they also did in Feijóo’s failed bid in September, but they will not support the amnesty law, which will still achieve a majority without their single vote.
The debate will conclude with a speech by Socialist congressional spokesperson Patxi López, followed by a roll-call vote in which Sánchez is expected to win by majority, with the support of eight political parties and 179 votes.
'Demanding from minute one'
Minutes after Pedro Sánchez was reelected as PM, Catalan president Pere Aragonès, who is part of Esquerra Republicana, one of the Catalan pro-independence parties that backed the Socialist candidate, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
"It is not time to comply with the agreements, such as the full transfer of the Rodalies commuter train network, economic improvements, and the amnesty," Aragonès wrote.
"We will be demanding from minute one," he added as "we need to move forward with this new era to solve the political conflict with Spain and for the wellbeing of all Catalans," he concluded.