Months of political stagnation came to an end with the confirmation of socialist Pedro Sanchez to a third term as Spain’s prime minister on November 16. Sanchez secured 179 votes out of 350 voting members, including seven votes from the separatist Junts party. Sanchez recently ignited controversy after agreeing to concessions to the separatists in violation of the Spanish constitution.
The controversy drew conservative commentator Tucker Carlson to Madrid to denounce the decision. Carlson called Sanchez a tyrant and a dictator on social media while campaigning with far-right candidate Santiago Abascal.
At the root of the issue is a conflict in 2017 in which the region of Catalonia declared independence from the centralized Spanish government. A Constitutional court ruled the referendum calling for independence illegal. Police arrested many of the leaders of the movement.
Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont led the effort against Spain and now lives in exile in Belgium. He calls for amnesty for the separatists since the failed attempt to break away from Spain.
In October 2019, nine leaders of the separatist movement received prison sentences for committing treason. Former Vice President Oriol Junqueras received the longest sentence at 13 years. Others received sentences ranging from nine to 12 years.
Protests erupted on November 12 when news broke that Sanchez had brokered a deal that would provide amnesty despite the agreement violating the Spanish Constitution. Tens of thousands of Spaniards took to the streets in protest and met fierce resistance from police.
Tens of thousands of protesters are taking to the streets in Spain after Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez made a corrupt deal to stay in power
— ShotGunBonnie (@ShotGun_Bonnie) November 13, 2023
Sanchez’s party officially filed the bill on Monday, inciting the wrath of right-leaning Spaniards. Opponents say that Sanchez only offered the agreement to get the votes of the Catalan Junts party that were essential to win the election. Conservative parties in the nation believe the amnesty bill will reignite the independence movement and destabilize Spain.
Sanchez has stated the agreement was not about power but rather a way to bring about greater national unity. King Felipe IV will seat Sanchez into office on Friday. The re-elected prime minister will begin to assemble his cabinet over the weekend. The prime minister will form a coalition government with the Sumar coalition.
Deep political divisions between conservative and liberal groups will prevent the government from making significant progress. One of the first measures will be the amnesty bill that must pass parliament to provide concessions.