Spain’s socialist-led coalition government is expected this week to approve its highly controversial pardons for the 12 Catalan independence leaders convicted two years ago for their role in the illegal and failed attempt to secede from the rest of the country in October 2017.
The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, has said that the pardons, which could be signed by the cabinet on Tuesday, are necessary to restore social and political coexistence and help Spanish society “move from a bad past to a better future ”.
However, the move remains deeply unpopular with his opponents and the Spanish public. Sánchez’s political rivals have accused him of abandoning his previous anti-pardon position and cowardly capitulating to the independent Catalan Republican Left Party (ERC), on which his minority government depends for support in Congress.
A recent poll for The World found that 61% of respondents disagreed with the pardons. Last weekend, tens of thousands of people, including the leaders of the three parties of the Spanish right, demonstrated in Madrid to vent their fury.
Last month, Spain’s Supreme Court, which handed nine to nine of the independence leaders and activists jail terms of between nine and 13 years, issued a non-binding report opposing the pardons, saying the punishments were appropriate and noting that the damned he had not shown “the slightest evidence or the slightest hint of contrition.”
However, despite the current anger, there are signs that the gamble could pay off in the medium and long term. The ERC, which leads the Catalan regional government and is also the most measured and pragmatic pro-independence party, has shown its support for pardons, much to the chagrin of its hard-line partners in the Together for Catalonia party.
The new Catalan regional president, Pere Aragonès, who will meet this month with Sánchez to talk in order to end the political impasse, recently expressed his desire to find a negotiated solution and said: “It will not be easy, it will be extraordinarily difficult, but it is our duty to the people of Catalonia ”.
But the ERC is also taking care that it is not seen running headlong into the embrace of the Spanish government. Its leader and former Catalan regional vice president, Oriol Junqueras – who was sentenced to 13 years for sedition and embezzlement of public funds and disqualified from holding public office for the same amount of time – said this Sunday that the pardons were “a triumph that shows some of the weaknesses of the state apparatus ”. Junqueras also claimed that the Spanish government was nervous about the appeals that he and the other convicted leaders are planning in the European court of human rights.
On Thursday of last week, Sánchez received great encouragement when the head of Spain’s main business lobby, the CEOE, said the pardons “it would be welcome if you help things get back to normal”.
The Prime Minister will be in Barcelona this Monday to outline his “future project for all of Spain” at a conference. There is growing speculation that a decision on pardons could be announced the next day or, at the latest, the following Tuesday.
A source from Sánchez’s Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party told Reuters that the decision was imminent and that the prime minister believed the pardon issue would fade before the country votes in its next general election, scheduled for 2023.
The government also expects a rebound in polls as EU Covid recovery funds (€ 70 billion in grants and € 70 billion in loans over the next five years) arrive.
“It is worth the political cost now and not a month before the elections,” a government source told Reuters. “We have to focus the next two years on the economic problems.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism