Salvador Illa to step down as Spanish health minister on Tuesday

Politician will be frontrunner of Socialist party in upcoming Catalan election

Socialist presidential candidate for the Catalan elections, Salvador Illa, during a pre-campaign act (by Aleix Freixas)
Socialist presidential candidate for the Catalan elections, Salvador Illa, during a pre-campaign act (by Aleix Freixas) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

January 25, 2021 09:03 AM

Salvador Illa will step down as Spanish health minister on Tuesday, almost one month after having announced that he would lead the Socialists in the upcoming Catalan election.

He has been minister throughout the Covid-19 public health crisis, and will leave the post amid the third wave of the pandemic.

Illa had said that he would step down just before the election campaign kickoff – and he will leave only three days before the race begins.

The move came after Miquel Iceta's decision to step aside as the party frontrunner in the vote.

The election is expected to be held on February 14, after the Catalan government failed to delay them – pending the final decision by the high court on the postponement –.

An overwhelming majority of parties agreed to put the vote off until May 30 to avoid opening polling stations in the middle of the Covid-19 third wave. Yet, the Socialists, soaring in the polls after Illa's announcement as frontrunner, are the only major party to reject the new date.

Just before quitting, Illa will attend his last cabinet meeting on Tuesday and will visit the Spanish Agency of Medicines and Medical Devices in order to thank workers for their job in the vaccine rollout. Also on Tuesday, the replacement for Illa in the key ministry will be announced.

Confusion over date of election

Catalan political parties are already preparing for a February 14 election and drawing up campaign plans, despite the consensus among parliamentary groups being in favour of holding the vote on May 30. 

The date of the upcoming election has been subject to much confusion, as initially the February date was set before being postponed by a government decree as a result of the ongoing health crisis. However, the Catalan high court then scrapped this delay on the grounds of legal technicalities over how the decree was written, and argued that public consensus is in favour of holding a vote that has been spoken about in the chamber for over a year already. 

The magistrates will consider arguments and challenges and will make a final decision on the election date before February 8, potentially with the campaign already having started.