BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The future government of Spain’s restive Catalonia region is in the hands of a man spending his nights in a prison cell for sedition.
After completing one-fourth of his 13-year sentence for his part in a 2017 secession attempt, Oriol Junqueras was granted open prison regime in late January, meaning he can spend daytime outside prison. He devotes much of that time, in and outside, to leading the Republican Left of Catalonia, the party now positioned to choose its governing partners after this weekend’s inconclusive regional election boosted the separatists’ power.
While the pro-union Socialist Party of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez claimed a narrow victory in votes, candidate Salvador Illa has a very difficult path to forming a government.
Republican Left of Catalonia tied the Socialists in seats, with both set to send 33 lawmakers each to the regional legislature. But it has more potential partners to woo into a coalition thanks to the good showing by its brethren in the separatist camp, which increased its power in Sunday’s election despite years of frustrated ambitions to create a new Mediterranean nation.
On the back of a record low turnout, the three main parties that want to create a Catalan state expanded their strength to 74 lawmakers in the 135-seat Barcelona-based parliament — up from 70 in 2017.
Granted leave by penitentiary authorities to spend election night with his party members, Junqueras told Catalan public television on Monday morning that the Republican Left of Catalonia would seek to forge a “broad” coalition to make candidate Pere Aragonès Catalonia’s next regional president.
“I have no doubt that the other political forces will do what they should, which is give their support to the most-voted pro-secession party,” Junquera said.
He also discarded the potential option of joining in an alliance with the Socialists, which while sharing left-wing social policies, rejects the separatists’ goal of holding an official referendum on independence.