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Catalan party says ‘far’ from backing Spain PM for new term

A hardline Catalan separatist party which emerged as kingmaker from Spain’s election said Friday it was “far” from reaching a deal to back Pedro Sanchez for another term as premier.

Spain has been in political limbo since the inconclusive July election that was won by the right-wing Popular Party but without enough support to form a government, with leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo losing a key parliamentary vote to become prime minister.

Now it’s Sanchez’s turn and to be reinstated, he will need to pass an identical vote with the support of at least 176 of parliament’s 350 lawmakers.

So far, the Socialist leader has the backing of the radical left-wing Sumar but also needs support from Basque and Catalan nationalist parties, and crucially, the seven votes of lawmakers from the hardline separatist JxCat.

In exchange, JxCat is demanding an amnesty for hundreds of politicians and activists facing legal action over their role in Catalonia’s failed 2017 secession bid, which sparked Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.

Among those who would benefit is JxCat leader Carles Puigdemont, who headed the Catalan regional government in 2017 when it made a short-lived declaration of independence after a violence-marred referendum banned by Madrid.

Puigdemont fled Spain shortly after to avoid prosecution and now lives in self-imposed exile in Belgium.

“Today we are far, far from an agreement” with the Socialists, JxCat spokeswoman Miriam Nogueras told reporters after talks with Sanchez at the parliament.

Sanchez also met representatives of Basque separatist party Bildu on Friday in his first round of talks with other formations to win support for his bid to be sworn in for another term in office.

Bildu is seen as the heir of the political wing of ETA, the now disbanded armed separatist group blamed for over 850 deaths in its decades-long campaign of bombings and shootings for an independent Basque homeland.

The party helped Sanchez form a government in 2020 by abstaining in the vote for him to be inaugurated as prime minister, and after Friday’s meeting, Bildu said it would back him for another term in office.

In a statement, the Socialist party said its meetings with other parties “would intensify next week”.

Sanchez’s reliance on Basque and Catalan separatist parties to govern has angered part of the electorate — especially on the right.

He was jeered at a military parade marking Spain’s national day on Thursday, with some shouting “Traitor!” and others yelling: “Send Puigdemont to prison!”.

If no candidate secures a parliamentary majority to govern by November 27, fresh elections will be held, most likely early next year.