Catalans vote in crucial regional election for the separatist movement

Socialist candidate Salvador Illa talks to journalists after voting at a polling station in La Roca del Valles, north of Barcelona, Sunday May 12, 2024.
Socialist candidate Salvador Illa talks to journalists after voting at a polling station in La Roca del Valles, north of Barcelona, Sunday May 12, 2024. Copyright Emilio Morenatti/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Emilio Morenatti/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Euronews
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The outcome is set to test the strength of the separatist movement and the popularity of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

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Catalonia is holding a regional election on Sunday, the outcome of which is set to  reverberate across national Spanish politics. 

More than 5.7 million voters are eligible to vote in a ballot that's set to be a test both for the strength of the separatist movement in the wealthy northeastern part of Spain and for the policies of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

Separatists have held power in the regional parliament for over a decade. That could be set to change as both polling and a national election in July showed that support for secession had shrunk since former regional president Carlos Puigdemont led a futile breakaway bid in 2017. 

Puigdemont fled the country days after his failed secession attempt, yet has been running in this election from southern France, claiming he will return to Spain once the newly elected lawmakers choose a regional president following the election. 

Former regional president Carles Puigdemont applauds during a campaign rally in Argelers, France, Wednesday, May 8, 2024.
Former regional president Carles Puigdemont applauds during a campaign rally in Argelers, France, Wednesday, May 8, 2024.Joan Mateu/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

Puigdemont is under investigation by Spain's top court for alleged terrorism offences over his alleged involvement in violent protests in 2019.

He hopes to be granted amnesty by Spain's parliament following Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s efforts to reduce tensions in Catalonia through pardoning high-profile separatists. 

The election is tense for Sánchez, who is set to be delivered a blow if voters do not come out in support of his Socialist party. 

He's campaigned alongside Salvador Illa, the regional Catalan candidate of the Socialists. Illa won the most votes in a 2021 regional election but was unable to stop separatist Pere Aragonès from forming a government.

There are also divisions within the separatist movement itself, with Puigdemont’s conservative Together party battling against Aragonès’s Republican Left of Catalonia.

An upstart pro-secession, far-right party called Catalan Alliance, which rails against unauthorised immigration as well as the Spanish state, will hope to earn parliamentary representation.

A coalition is inevitable as total of nine parties are running and no single one is expected to come close to winning enough votes to reach the absolute majority of 68 seats in the chamber.

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