CATALAN separatist leader Carles Puigdemont on Tuesday laid out his demands in exchange for his party’s support for caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s bid to get back into power. Among them are an amnesty for those facing criminal charges for their role in the region’s 2017 independence drive.

He also demanded an end to what he called ‘set-ups’ aimed at criminalising the pro-Catalan independence movement, and a mechanism that will guarantee that any deals struck with Sanchez’s Socialist Party are respected going forward. 

Speaking in Brussels a day after he held a meeting with caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Diaz, the leader of the Together for Catalunya party also called for a ‘referendum agreed with the Spanish state’ on the future of the northeastern region, and failed to rule out a unilateral approach to seceding from Spain. 

However, he left the issue of a referendum for a future date and not as part of these immediate negotiations with the Socialists, given that such a demand would have been a red line for Sanchez’s party.  

Sedition charges dropped by Spain's Supreme Court against ex-Catalunya president Carles Puigdemont
Carles Puigdemont. Cordon Press image

Puigdemont has been living in self-imposed exile in Brussels since 2017, when, as regional premier, he formed part of the independence drive that saw an illegal referendum on secession held on October 1, followed by a unilateral declaration of independence passed in the regional parliament.

In response, the Spanish government suspended the region’s powers and called new elections. Puigdemont fled the country to avoid arrest and has been wanted by the Spanish authorities ever since in order to face trial for his actions.

Now, however, he is the potential kingmaker for a repeat Socialist Party government. While the conservative Popular Party won the most votes at the July 23 general election, it fell well short of a majority, and even with the support of far-right Vox, leader Alberto Nuñez Feijoo is unlikely to be able to form a government.

The Socialists, meanwhile, are also short of a majority even with the leftist alliance Sumar. Pedro Sanchez, however, is convinced that he can cobble together enough support to form a government, by counting on the support of smaller parties as he did during his last term in office. 

Among these parties is Together for Catalunya, meaning that Sanchez will have to take Puigdemont’s demands seriously if he is proposed by Spain’s King Felipe VI as a candidate for an investiture vote. 

Feijoo will be standing at such a vote at the end of this month, but his bid is widely expected to fail given a lack of support from any other parties except for Vox and two minor groups.

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