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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Inui

What it Takes to Win: Pedro Sánchez Reelected as Spanish Prime Minister


Incumbent Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was reelected on Thursday, although he was forced to make several controversial deals along the way (PSOE, Flickr)


On November 16, incumbent Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was reelected by the Spanish parliament, concluding a four-month political struggle against his opponent, Alberto Núñez Feijóo of the center-right Popular Party. However, in order to garner support, Sánchez was forced to make controversial deals with several smaller parties, spelling uncertainty for Sánchez moving forward. 


What Happened in Spain?


Sánchez’s victory in parliament marks the end of a period of political upheaval beginning in May when Sánchez called for a snap election. After his party, the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), suffered devasting losses in regional and local elections, Sánchez opted to move the national election up to July 23 (as opposed to the end of the year) in an effort to limit the effects of his party’s declining popularity. When pressed on his decision, Sánchez said that Spaniards need to “clarify which political forces they want to take the lead” and “define the country’s political direction.” 


Ultimately, the People’s Party won 136 seats while the Socialists won 121, neither enough to constitute a majority of the parliament. With this, Feijóo attempted to gain support from other smaller parties to create a coalition majority. However, in part because of his alliance with the hard-right Vox party, his attempts were largely fruitless.


What Deals Were Made?


Coming out of the general election, neither major party had a majority in the parliament, forcing Sánchez and Feijóo to race to garner the support of smaller parties. In the end, Sánchez’s left-leaning Sumar alliance came out victorious. 


That being said, Sánchez was forced to make several controversial concessions to parties from Catalonia, the Basque region, and the Canary Islands, garnering sharp criticism from his opponents. The most complex and contentious of the deals is with two Catalan pro-independence parties—the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and the hardline Junts per Catalunya. In it, Sánchez agreed to offer amnesty to hundreds of people involved in Catalan independence movements over the last decade.


While Sánchez formerly argued that a blanket pardon would violate the Spanish constitution his party tabled a draft amnesty bill on November 11. The bill, covering the period from January 2021 to November 2023, would grant pardons to 309 people and 73 police officers facing criminal charges. This would also include former Catalan President and Junts party leader Carles Puigdemon, who has lived in a self-imposed exile in Belgium since 2017. 


How Did Spain Respond?


Since Sánchez’s deals, especially with the Catalan independence parties, were made public, there has been uproar across the country. Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards took the the streets to protest Sánchez’s upcoming pardon of Catalan revolutionaries.


Sánchez’s staunchest opposition has unsurprisingly come from the two opposition parties (the PP and Vox), both of which accused Sánchez of putting self-preservation before national interests. Feijóo said that the amnesty bill would revive the Catalan independence movement, threatening Spain’s stability, while Vox accused the prime minister of carrying out “a coup d’état in capital letters.” Both parties have called on the European Union, of which Spain is a member, to investigate Sánchez’s proposed law. 


Despite the backlash, Sánchez has stood firm, arguing that granting amnesty would foster greater national unity through “dialogue and forgiveness.”

 


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