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Catalan Election Opens Door for Return of Exiled Separatist Leader

May 7, 2024. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

On Sunday, Catalans are set to vote in a crucial regional election that presents a stark choice between continuing the push for independence under an exiled leader, Carles Puigdemont, or shifting towards a unionist government under the Socialist Party. Salvador Illa, the Socialist candidate, is predicted to lead with a strong margin over Puigdemont’s hardline Junts party and the more moderate Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), according to opinion polls.

Carles Puigdemont, who spearheaded the controversial 2017 independence attempt and subsequently fled to Belgium, has declared his readiness to renew the independence campaign. This election could mark a significant turn in his fortunes, as he plans to return to Catalonia following a proposed amnesty by the national Socialist government, which would cancel his arrest warrant.

The potential victory of the Socialists, forecasted to win 40 seats, could end a decade of separatist leadership in Catalonia. This shift would represent a significant political realignment in the region, supporting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s strategy of reconciliation. Sanchez, campaigning for Illa, emphasized the need for stability and social improvement in Catalonia.

The election comes after Sanchez’s recent and unexpected consideration of resignation, a move that has reportedly energized the Socialist base in Catalonia. With many voters still undecided, the election’s outcome remains highly uncertain.

The complexity of forming a government is apparent, as no party is expected to secure an outright majority. The Socialists might explore a coalition with ERC or even Junts, though both have initially dismissed such possibilities. Alternatively, an improbable alliance with the People’s Party, their main national rival, might be considered.

If coalition talks falter by August, Catalans could face another election in October, prolonging political uncertainty.

Lucas Falcão

International Politics and Sports Specialist, Chief Editor of Walerts with extensive experience in breaking news.

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