Exiled Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has asked for amnesty and an end to all legal proceedings against Catalan separatists in exchange for his support to back a new left-wing coalition government led by Pedro Sánchez.
Speaking on Tuesday in Brussels, Puigdemont said the positive vote of his party, Junts per Catalunya, was conditional on the “recognition and respect for the legitimacy of the Catalan independentist movement.”
“October 1 was not a crime, nor was the declaration of independence and the massive protests against the repression and the ruling of the Supreme Court,” said Puigdemont referring to the controversial 2017 vote on Catalan independence, which the Spanish justice later deemed to be illegal.
The inconclusive elections held in Spain in July left both the left- and right-wing coalitions dependent on the backing of Puigdemont’s Junts party to form a parliamentary majority, leaving the fugitive Catalan leader as kingmaker.
In August, Spain’s king invited Alberto Núñez Feijóo, the leader of the conservative opposition party Partido Popular (PP), to form a new government after he won the largest number of seats in the parliamentary elections.
But the hemicycle’s arithmetic is on Pedro Sánchez’s side despite his socialist party, PSOE, coming second in the ballot, and he could piece together a majority to start negotiations on forming a new government if he accepts Puigdemont’s demands.
Junts currently holds seven seats in the lower house of the Spanish parliament, a small but crucial number in order to reach a majority of 176 endorsements. Failure to reach a deal could trigger fresh elections in January next year.
On Monday, Sánchez’s coalition partner and deputy prime minister of his caretaker government Yolanda Díaz travelled to Brussels to meet Puigdemont. The meeting took place in the European Parliament, instead of Waterloo, where Puigdemont has been living since fleeing the Spanish justice.
The exiled leader had previously suggested he would ask for a second referendum on Catalan independence as a requisite for his support but made no such demands in his comments on Tuesday.
In response, Spain’s caretaker government said they would consider Puigdemont’s offer and left the door open to possible negotiations as long as they unfold within the legal framework of the Spanish constitution.
“No one can deny today that it is unquestionable that the situation in Catalonia is infinitely better than it was five years ago,” a spokesperson said.
Feijóo says no to amnesty
In a reaction to the news, Alberto Núñez Feijóo confirmed he would not negotiate with Puigdemont based on the demands laid out on Tuesday.
“If they are going to ask for amnesty as a condition for me to be made prime minister, we can spare the meeting,” Feijóo said in a statement.
“With the conditions that Puigdemont has given, the answer is no,” he added.
Having initially insisted in his electoral campaign that he would not rely on the support of independentists from Catalonia or the Basque country to form a government, the conservative leader later relented and admitted he would listen to the proposals of Junts – a centre-right party – following the narrow outcome of the elections.
Last week, Feijóo attempted to reach a power-sharing deal with Sánchez that would allow him to govern on his own for a two-year term. The move was outright rejected.
Ever since coming to power in 2018, Sánchez has depended on the backing of the Catalan independentist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) to govern and secure enough votes to move forward with his legislative initiatives and socially progressive agenda. In June 2021, Sánchez formally pardoned nine Catalan separatist leaders who had been imprisoned for crimes of sedition in 2017.
Sánchez’s history of collaboration with independentists coloured much of the debate during the July election campaign, with right-leaning groups criticising the prime minister’s willingness to cosy up to “fugitives of justice.”
As part of the ongoing negotiations, Sánchez has made a formal request to the Council of the European Union for minority languages Catalan, Basque and Galician to be made official EU languages in a bid to woo independentist leaders.