Spain Public Policy

Spain Public Policy

Current policy

Spain is a country located in the region of Southern Europe. See abbreviation for Spain. Spanish politics has become increasingly polarized in recent years, where no party is strong enough to win its own majority in Parliament’s lower house, the Congress. The problems of getting a sustainable government in Madrid have led to four national elections in Spain between 2015 and 2019. By the beginning of 2020, it became clear that the Socialist Socialist Party (PSOE) and the Left Party Unidas Podemos would form the first coalition government in the country since 1939. To get there, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had promised the Catalan Left Party ERC to start talks on the future of Catalonia.

In March 2020, Spain became one of the countries in the world most severely affected by the corona crisis, when several thousand people died in the virus covid-19.

  • Countryaah: Country facts and history of Spain, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.

The PSOE took over the reign of Spain in June 2018, after the Conservative People’s Party (PP) had been forced to relinquish power in the aftermath of a corruption deal. In early 2019, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was forced to announce new elections after the government failed to get the budget adopted due to opposition from two Catalan parties. This, in turn, was a result of the contradictions between Madrid and the Barcelona regional government, which is pushing for Catalonia to become an independent state. The PSOE stepped out of the elections in April 2019, but failed to win enough support to form a government. That led to a new election in November of that year, where the PSOE again became the largest party, but where Unidas Podemos lost votes at the same time as PP and the right-wing populist Vox went ahead.

New political landscape

The roots of the political divide in Spain can be found partly in the international financial crisis, which from 2008 hit hard on Spain. The dissatisfaction with the harsh austerity policies that followed in its tracks contributed to the political landscape being partially rebuilt. In addition, several corruption scandals surrounding the two major parties, PP and (PSOE), led to the loss of support and new parties being created: primarily the left-wing Podemos (who in the 2019 elections lined up with the United Left (IU) under the name Unidas Podemos, UP) and the bourgeois Citizen (Ciudadanos, CS), as well as the independence movement in Catalonia, which also strengthened the political contradictions in Spain.

At the same time, the gap between left and right has grown in Spanish politics. In the April 28, 2019 election, Vox also joined the congress. It was the first time since 1982 that a party of far-right views had taken up the Spanish congress. Vox’s success in public opinion led both the PP – and to some extent Ciudadanos – during the election campaign in the spring of 2019 to take a clear step to the right. Ahead of the fall election, both PSOE and PP made great efforts to try to win back Ciudadanos mid-voters.

When Sánchez took office in June 2018, it had just over 84 of the 350 congressional seats, making it entirely dependent on support from both Podemos and several regional parties, including the Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT, formerly called the Catalan Democrat Party, CDC) and Catalonia’s Republican Left (ERC). It was the latter who decided to topple the government in February 2019, despite having promised that the appropriations for Catalonia would increase by almost a fifth and that the national minimum wage would be increased by 22 percent. At the same time, the talks between Madrid and Barcelona had stalled and the trial of twelve Catalan leaders had been initiated at the Madrid Supreme Court (see Calendar and below).

PSOE did well in the April 2019 elections, receiving 123 seats. Together with Unidos Podemos, the left bloc received 165 seats. But in order to reach a majority in Congress, the government was required to have at least 176 members. In order to retain government power, the PSOE had to win the support of several small parties. The right-wing liberal Ciudadanos, another of the winners of that election, and the PSOE ruled out a government cooperation during the election. Another party that had success was the Catalan ERC, which, before the election, took a more moderate line on the issue of Catalan independence and also opened a new collaboration with the PSOE. April’s big loser became a PP who couldn’t even keep half of his mandate.

In the fall of 2018, PSOE and Podemos had agreed on a budget agreement with progressive elements (see Calendar). Ahead of the upcoming government talks, Podemo’s leader Pablo Iglesias made it clear that this time his party wanted ministerial posts in exchange for his support, while Sánchez and PSOE wanted a new minority government. The talks between the two parties stalled in the summer of 2019, and in July Congress twice voted no for Sánchez to continue as prime minister. He now had two months to set up a new government. In early September, Sánchez made an effort to appease Unidas Podemos through promises of free child care, more money for care and high government jobs, but that was not enough to break the deadlock. Finally, Sánchez was forced to give up and announce new elections (see also Calendar).

PSOE did win the election in November 2019, but the party lost three seats, and for Unidas Podemos things went even worse. PP strengthened its position, but Vox’s big winner became Vox, which more than doubled the number of seats and is now Spain’s third largest party (see Calendar).

After the election, Sánchez excluded all thoughts of forming a “big coalition” with PP. Instead, he emphasized the importance of creating a new progressive government. Somewhat surprisingly, PSOE now agreed with Unidas Podemos to form a coalition government. But in order to get rid of it, the parties must now win the support of several smaller parties (see Calendar). In early January 2020, Sánchez managed to persuade the Catalan ERC to cast its votes in a vote of confidence in early January 2020, in exchange for pledges on talks on the future of Catalonia.

The Catalan question

In recent years, the question of the status of Catalonia has become prominent in Spanish politics. In the wake of the economic crisis, independence requirements in the region grew (see Catalonia). At the same time, opinion in the region is divided, and large groups oppose Catalonia to break out of Spain. During the previous PP government (2011 to 2018), the then Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was criticized from some quarters for praying for the confrontation through his reluctance to discuss a compromise solution with the Barcelona regional government. Rajoy’s Catalonia policy was supported in particular by Ciudadanos, but to some extent also by the PSOE, which, however, has agreed to hold talks with Barcelona (see also Political system). Podemos believes that the Catalans should be allowed to vote on the matter.

The referendum on independence that the Catalan regional government held in the fall of 2017 spurred the contradictions and the then PP government in Madrid chose to activate Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution and temporarily took over the rule of Catalonia and announced regional elections until December of that year. In it, the separatist bloc managed to reach a barely majority, despite losing votes. However, Ciudadanos became the single largest party in the regional parliament (see Calendar).

The referendum in Catalonia has also received legal backlash and a number of Catalan leaders have been prosecuted. The trial of twelve people began in Madrid in February 2019 under heavy media coverage. The charges are “rebellion, embezzlement of public funds and disobedience” and the prosecutor’s side has demanded a prison sentence of between seven and 25 years. The highest penalty is for Oriol Junqueras, leader of the ERC. Among many independence supporters in Catalonia, the trials are seen as political and the defendants are regarded as political prisoners. The trial ended in June 2019, but the judges only came in October of that year, when nine separatist leaders were sentenced to nine to 13 years in prison (see Calendar). It sparked major protests in Catalonia, some of which led to violent clashes between independence supporters and the police, which likely strengthened the right-wing parties in the Spanish parliamentary election that promised hard-fought Catalan separatists.

Former regional president Carles Puigdemont and several other former ministers had left the country before prosecution was brought. Attempts have been made to extradite them, but in December 2018, the Supreme Court withdrew the European arrest warrants issued to five politicians who were then in Belgium. However, in the fall of 2019, Spain decided to resume the demands for the five Catalan politicians to be extradited from Belgium and the United Kingdom.

Spanish nationalism

What has happened in Catalonia has created a backlash in other parts of Spain, where nationalist tendencies have strengthened within certain electoral groups. Parties on the right have been able to win votes by promising harder grip on Catalonia, including by moving power from Barcelona to Madrid. The right-wing parties have accused Sánchez of holding talks with the Catalan independence parties to pose a threat to Spain’s unity..

It is the Catalonia issue, rather than criticism of increased immigration, that has led to success for Vox. But Vox has also played on xenophobic allegations and has demanded, among other things, that all illegal immigrants and all immigrants who commit crimes should be expelled from Spain. The party’s electoral success, especially in the fall of 2019, will make it more difficult to find a negotiating solution with the separatists in Catalonia.

For its part, the PSOE has tried to mobilize voters by threatening the ghosts of the Franco era, not least since PP and Ciudadanos formed government in the southern region of Andalusia with the support of Vox. The PSOE government has also tried to make up for the past by relocating former dictator Francisco Franco’s remnants from the mausoleum of El Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen) to the El Pardo cemetery in Mingorrubio, north of Madrid, despite opposition from, among others, Franco’s family (see Calendar) and from Vox.

High unemployment

Spain has now recovered from the worst suites of the economic crisis, but unemployment is still a major problem. In early 2019, about 14 percent of Spaniards lacked work, but among young people under 25, unemployment was more than twice as high. It also looks like economic growth is stalling.

Other major problems for the future are Spain’s high government debt and how to finance the pension system, which is cracking in the seams as the population ages. Already, you are paying more in pensions than you are getting into social security contributions, even though employment has increased, the retirement age has been increased to 67 years and the purchasing power of the Spaniards has been strengthened. The depopulation of the countryside and large social divisions within the country are other problems that the Spaniards must address. 10 million Spaniards were estimated to live below the poverty line in 2018.

Spain also has a growing gender equality movement, which draws attention to gender pay differences and violence against women. But it has also provoked a backlash, not least from parties like Vox who want to tear up some laws that have been created to protect women. Another loaded issue concerns the abortion laws. New PP leader Pablo Casado has said he wants to have back the abortion legislation that applied until 1985, where abortion was only allowed when the mother’s life was in danger, the fetus was severely malformed or the woman became pregnant after a rape. He links the issue of abortion to Spain’s low birth rate.

National emergency

Spain is severely affected by the pandemic with the new coronavirus and announces a national emergency in mid-March 2020 (see Calendar). This is both sharpened and extended at the end of the same month. Until April 1, over 9,000 people died in covid-19 in Spain, and there were over 100,000 confirmed cases of the disease in Spain. The Corona crisis also hit hard on the Spanish economy, and Prime Minister Sánchez pressed for increased EU support.

At the same time, political life became even more complicated than before and, above all, PP and Vox sharply criticized how the government had handled the corona crisis.

Follow the ongoing development of the country in the Calendar


Spain – democracy in crisis. World Policy Day Issues # 2 2018

Read more about Spain in UI’s publication Foreign magazine:
Sánchez embraces the left – but Catalonia decides (2019-11-14)
Hard-to-read political situation after the election in Spain (2019-04-30)
Sánchez surprises both supporters and opponents (2018-06- 13)
Reform of Spain’s Constitution Can Unite the Country (2017-10-23)
Catalonia: What do we think of the people’s self-determination? (2017-10-19)
The Barcelona vs Madrid conflict in five acts (2017-10-08)
Referendum to save the government of Catalonia (2017-07-03)


Official name

Reino de España / Kingdom of Spain


monarchy, unitary state

Head of State

King Felipe VI (2014–)

Head of government

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez (2018–)

Most important parties with mandates in the last election

Socialist Party (PSOE) 120, People’s Party (PP) 89, Vox 52, Unidas Podemos 35, Catalonia’s Republican Left (ERC-Sobiranistes) 13, Ciudadanos 10, Together for Catalonia (JxCat-Junts) 8, Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) 6, EH Picture 5, Más País 3, Cup-PR 2, CCa-PNC 2, NA + 2, BNG 1, PRC 1, Teruel Existe 1 (2019) 1

Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections

Socialist Party (PSOE) 123/121, People’s Party (PP) 66/56, Ciudadanos 57/4, Unidas Podemos 42, Vox 24, Catalonia’s Republican Left (ERC-Sobiranistes) 15/11, Together for Catalonia (JxCat-Junts) 7 / 2, Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) 6/9, EH Bildu 4/1, CCa-PNC 2, NA + 2/3, Compromise 2019 1, PRC 1, ASG 0/1 (2019) 2


75.8% in the parliamentary elections in April 2019, 70% in the parliamentary elections in November 2019

Upcoming elections

parliamentary elections 2023

  1. refers to the congress (lower house) in the new election in November 2019
    2. the congress (lower house) / senate after the election in April 2019. The mandate figures for the senate refer to the directly elected senators, some of the 208 are elected on mixed lists and their mandate is not reported here.Sources

Basque Country

The Basque region of northern Spain, with its more than two million residents, is one of the more prosperous and developed areas of the country. The Basque has far-reaching self-government – including the right to decide how to use the region’s tax revenue itself – with a lehendakari at the head of the local government. Here are both Spanish and Basque official languages.

For decades, the small extremist separatist group ETA waged a bloody terror to establish an independent state, which, in addition to the Basque Country itself, would include Navarre and the French Basque Country. Today, ETA has weakened and in 2011 the group announced that it would definitely cease its military operations. The disarmament of the group expired on time, until spring 2017. In April 2018, the group went a step further and apologized for the suffering it caused during its campaign of violence (see Calendar). In early May of the same year, ETA announced that the organization has now been completely dissolved.

An opinion poll in 2016 showed that 18 percent of the Basques had a strong desire for immediate divorce from Spain. If those who had a fairly strong desire were included, the proportion was 24 percent (in 2006 the figure was 39 percent). Hardly anyone wants to get there with ETA’s methods of violence. The reason for the low figures is partly far-reaching self-determination and an economy that is better than the average in Spain and with lower unemployment, and partly that people are tired of ETA’s violence.

ETA (Basque Country and Freedom, Euskadi Ta Askatasuna) was founded in 1959 by a group of students. It was from the outset an underground resistance movement that fought for Basque independence, mainly through propaganda and through education in the Basque, which was banned during the dictatorship. In 1968, ETA carried out its first political murder. Five years later, ETA murdered Spanish Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco, appointed by Franco as future head of government. Even those who opposed the methods of violence had a hard time condemning the murder, as it put an end to Franco’s plans to continue the dictatorship after his death.

ETA escalates the violence

After Franco’s death in 1975, the Basque country became the region with the most far-reaching autonomy, but the separatists regarded the settlement of self-government as treason. However, this attitude caused ETA to lose its broad support among the Basques.

In 1995, ETA attempted to assassinate then opposition leader José María Aznar. When Aznar and his People’s Party (PP) came to power the following year, the separatists launched a violent offensive against PP’s politicians in the Basque Country. In the summer of 1997, a young PP politician was kidnapped and murdered. The murder became a turning point – now the Basques began to protest against ETA.

In September 1998, ETA announced its first ceasefire and a peace process was initiated, but just over a year later, ETA canceled the ceasefire when the Spanish government did not want to discuss independence for the Basque country.

Following the terrorist attacks against the United States in September 2001, ETA was labeled as a terrorist group by the EU.

Before the ETA’s political branch, Batasuna (Unity), was banned in 2003, the party received around 10-20 percent of the vote in the elections. Batasuna was a left-wing coalition, which demanded an independent Basque country and refused to renounce ETA terror. Although most Basques were against the terror, a majority wanted to expand self-government. The biggest support was the moderate Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), which does not require independence.

Separatistallians are formed

Six months after the French police arrested ETA’s highest political leader, along with nearly 20 other suspected ETA members, in the spring of 2005, the Socialist Government invited ETA to dialogue, provided the movement distanced itself from violence. In November of that year, the largest trial to date against ETA was opened in Madrid. Two years later, 47 people were sentenced to prison for terror-related crimes.

In March 2006, ETA announced a permanent ceasefire. According to the movement, independence would now be achieved through democratic means. In June, the Spanish government gave a clear sign for talks with ETA. But the dialogue had barely begun until ETA detonated a bomb at Madrid’s airport. Two people were killed and the government canceled the peace talks.

A new wave of violence followed with several victims. However, ETA had been weakened by yet another series of arrests by ETA leaders in a collaboration between Spanish and French police.

Former Batasuna members formed in 2011 a new party, Sortu, and said they would distance themselves from all violence. It was a historically important step and more and more people dared to believe that the armed conflict was now over. When the Supreme Court banned Sortu from participating in the local elections in May 2011, a new separatist alliance, the leftist Bildu, was formed by a couple of legal separatist parties and by independent candidates. But Bildu was also forbidden by the Supreme Court to stand in the election because it was considered a cover for ETA and Batasuna. Bildu appealed the ban to the Constitutional Court, which a few weeks before the local elections declared Bildu legal and gave green light to the alliance’s candidates, who have abstained from violence.

The election was a surprising success for Bildu, who received 26 percent of the vote in the Basque country. The Nationalist Party PNV received more votes than Bildu, but EG Bildu won the most seats in the Basque country. Organizations for the victims of the terror believed that the success of the separatists was a victory for ETA, while Bildu’s own leaders believed that the Basques had chosen the political path towards independence and that ETA thus belonged to the past.

ETA puts down its weapons

In October 2011, ETA announced in a written communication that it would cease its military operations. 829 people, most of them police, military and politicians, but also civilians, had been killed in ETA’s more than 40-year campaign.

Prior to the October 2012 regional elections, separatist forces formed on the left EH Bildu (Euskal Herria, United Basque Country) (see Political system)

The election was a success for the Basque nationalists and separatists. PNV was the largest with 27 seats and EH Bildu took 21 – together a clear majority among the 75 members of the regional parliament. After the election, PNV leader Iñigo Urkullu formed a regional government with the support of the Socialist Party.

ETA said it was prepared to discuss the dissolution of its organization, on condition that the ETA members who were imprisoned were moved to the Basque area. The Madrid government replied that it only accepted an unconditional dissolution of ETA.

Disarmament of ETA

In December 2013, incarcerated ETA members declared that they would recognize the Spanish judiciary. Previously, they had dismissed trials and judgments against them and considered themselves political prisoners. They also explained that they realized the pain caused by ETA’s violence.

In February 2014, international inspectors announced that the disarmament of ETA had been initiated and that some of its weapons had been “taken out of service”. The International Commission of Evidence (IVC) that the inspectors came from consisted of former politicians and diplomats, a group which, however, had not been recognized by the Spanish government.

In the fall of 2016, French police found a large arms hiding north of Paris. Police believed that around the dozen ETA activists who were still in the room would use the weapons to negotiate with the Spanish and French governments. At the beginning of November, the chief of the remaining ETA leaders in the French Basque country was also arrested.

The regional elections in September 2016 became a success for the moderate nationalists of the PNV, who got 29 out of 75 seats in the Basque parliament. EH Bildu went back slightly to 17 seats, Podemos got 11 and PP and PSOE nine seats each. The election was largely about “everyday economic” issues, such as work, elderly care and water supply, not about independence and terror.

The result meant that the PNV government could remain, even with the support of the Socialist Party.

The tense situation in Catalonia has raised concerns in the Basque Country. Regional President Iñigo Urkullu has given some support to the Catalan independence struggle, but is still concerned about how tense the situation has become. Urkullu tried to persuade his Catalan colleague to wait for the Declaration of Independence, at the same time as he opposed Madrid’s decision to activate Article 155 to temporarily suspend Catalan autonomy (see Political system and Catalonia). There is concern that in the long term this may also threaten the powers that the Basque country has today.

Read more about the Basque Country in the Calendar.

Read more about the Basque conflict here.


Catalonia in northeastern Spain, with its more than 7 million residents, is one of the richest and most economically important regions in the country. Both Spanish and Catalan are official languages. In recent years, the independence movement in the region has strengthened its position. After the Catalan government, Generalitat de Catalunya, declared Catalonia’s independence in the fall of 2017, Madrid temporarily suspended the region’s autonomy and announced a new election, in which the independence parties were re-elected by a small majority. Only in June of the following year could a new regional government take office in Barcelona.

Catalonia gained self-government for the first time in 1932. It was asserted seven years later when General Francisco Franco took power and ruled Spain as a dictatorship until his death in 1975. the regions right to self-government.

In 2006, the government of Catalonia and the government of Madrid, then led by the Socialist Party (PSOE), agreed on a bill that would give Catalonia greater autonomy. The bill was appealed by the Conservative People’s Party (PP) to the Constitutional Court, which initiated a multi-year review process.

The question of the future of Catalonia was now higher and higher on the political agenda in both Madrid and Barcelona. The international financial crisis of 2008 hit Catalonia hard, which led to growing dissatisfaction among Catalans that the region was not allowed to collect taxes themselves, something that Basque and Navarre are entitled to (see Political system). Madrid’s tax increases caused heavy protests. The Spanish tax collection was seen as unjust and was presented in its places as if the Spanish state “stole” from the region to give to poorer parts of Spain.

The bitterness gained new nourishment when the Constitutional Court in June 2010 rejected parts of the bill on widening autonomy that Catalonia and the Madrid social government had agreed on in 2006. The Court turned, among other things, to the proposal giving the Catalan language an overriding position in relation to the Spanish in Catalonia and that the regional leadership should have power over the local judiciary. Particularly sensitive to the Catalans was that the court deleted a passage in the preface to the law in which Catalonia was mentioned as a nation within Spain (see also Political system).

Growing contradictions

The Court’s ruling triggered widespread protests in Catalonia and the contradictions between Barcelona and Madrid intensified when the PP came to power in Madrid at the end of 2011.

The annual National Day celebration in Catalonia, La Diada, in September 2012 turned into a mass demonstration, and at the end of the year the government of Catalonia decided to hold a referendum on independence for the region. Furthermore, a few months later a symbolic declaration of independence was adopted.

All this encountered a patrol in Madrid. In early 2014, the Constitutional Court rejected the Declaration of Independence and the Spanish Parliament voted by a clear majority against the plans for a referendum. Catalonia’s leadership explained that despite the backlash, it intended to try to implement it.

First referendum on independence

However, the plans for a referendum on independence suffered yet another setback in September 2014, when the Constitutional Court said it needed more time to decide whether it would conflict with the Spanish Constitution. However, Catalan nationalist leader Artur Mas said in October that the vote would be held as planned on November 14, but that it would only be advisory (see Calendar).

Madrid made another attempt to stop the vote through the Constitutional Court, but the symbolic election was nevertheless carried out. Nearly 40 percent of Catalan voters voted, of which over 80 percent voted for independence. The election result was dismissed as meaningless by the Spanish government.

The regional elections in Catalonia on September 27, 2015 became a success for the independence-winning parties that gained their own majority in the parliament in Barcelona. The governing alliance Together for Yes (Junts pel Sí), which consisted of the Democratic Party of Catalonia (Partit Demòcrata Catalá, PDC), Catalonia’s Republican Left (ERC) and a number of civil society organizations, won nearly 40 percent of the vote and received 62 of the 135 seats. The Cup (roughly Folkfront’s candidacy), which stands much further to the left, won just over 8 percent of the votes and received just over 10 seats.

Independents are given power

In November 2015, the regional parliament voted to launch a process for Catalan independence. The goal was to achieve independence within 18 months. The proposal could be brought to port since PDC and ERC had succeeded in forming the government with the Cup, despite major ideological differences. However, it did not happen painlessly. The incumbent Catalan president, Artur Mas, was forced out and replaced by Carles Puigdemont.

The PDC was renamed the following year under the name Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT).

Following the Catalan parliament’s decision on the independence process, the Constitutional Court went on the line of Madrid, stating that Catalonia’s actions were contrary to the Constitution, since Catalonia, unilaterally, intended to make a decision that would affect the entire country.

Referendum with obstacles

In the summer of 2016, the Catalan Parliament adopted a plan for independence from Spain, and in October Parliament decided to hold a referendum on independence in autumn 2017. This resolution was also upheld by the Constitutional Court, which also announced that Puigdemont and President Carme Forcadell risked prosecution if they did not follow the court’s decision. Despite this, in June 2017, Puigdemont announced a referendum until October 1 of that year.

In it, according to Catalan authorities, 90 percent of voters voted for independence, but turnout was just over 42 percent. Following the vote, Puigdemont tried to persuade the central government in Madrid to agree to a dialogue, but Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy refused (see also Calendar).

Madrid cancels self-government

The power measurement ended with Catalonia proclaiming its independence, which led Madrid to lift its autonomy and take control of Catalonia (see Calendar). At the same time, the Spanish government announced new elections in Catalonia until December 21, 2017. Several leading politicians in the independence camp were arrested, accused of, among other things, insurgency, while others, including Puigdemont, traveled abroad.

Independence parties quickly announced that they would run in the regional elections, but failed to agree on a joint list. Before the election, PDeCat formed an alliance with the equally bourgeois Catalan Democratic Party (CDC): Together for Catalonia (Junts per Catalunya, JxCat-Junts).

Together for Catalonia, the ERC and the Cup managed to retain their majority but lost three seats compared to the elections in 2015. The greatest success of the election was the bourgeois Ciudadanos who opposed Catalan independence.

Government formation became complicated and political uncertainty continued to adversely affect the local economy. The conflict over the independence issue, according to newspaper reports, had led to more than 3,000 Spanish and foreign companies having decided to relocate their headquarters from Catalonia to other parts of Spain. According to Spain’s finance minister, the political crisis has cost Catalonia € 1 billion in 2017 alone.

The Spanish government rejected all thoughts that Carles Puigdemont could continue as regional president from Brussels. On January 17, the regional parliament met for the first time after the December 2017 elections and appointed ERC politician Roger Torrent as the new Catalan parliament president. Torrent considered allowing the House to vote for Puigdemont, but changed after the Supreme Court ruled that he must be present in Barcelona in order to be elected. The vote was postponed, but there were cracks in the independence camp. ERC wanted to pour oil on the waves, Together for Catalonia stuck to Puigdemont and Cup wanted to start a campaign of civil disobedience.

In March 2018, Puigdemont gave up trying to be re-elected as regional president. New attempts were made with Jordi Sànchez, leader of the ANC organization who, however, was not allowed to leave the detention center for election to the regional president, and Jordi Turull, former spokesman for the Puigdemont government. The latter lost a vote in the Catalan parliament on March 23, due to opposition from the Cup, and the day after he was arrested and four others in connection with the Supreme Court’s decision to bring charges against 25 Catalan regional politicians. Both the decision to prosecute and the arrest of the politicians led to protests in Catalonia (see also Calendar).

The deadlock is lifted, new regional government in place in Barcelona

In mid-May 2018, Catalonia finally managed to elect a new regional president. It was Quim Torra who had been hand picked by Puigdemont for the mission. He could be elected after the Cup cast his votes in the regional parliament. A few more trips were required before a new regional government could take office in early June and Catalonia regained its autonomy. By then, the Madrid PP government had also fallen into a vote of no confidence and replaced by a new minister led by the Socialist Party. The new Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was more open to having a dialogue with Catalonia than the representative. He also depended on the support of the Catalan independence parties in order to retain government power.

But when the talks didn’t lead anywhere, the ERC and PDeCAT members of the Spanish congress chose in February 2019 to vote no to the Socialist government’s budget, which led to the ministry of Sánchez falling and Spanish new elections announced in April of that year. At the same time, the trial of twelve Catalan politicians was initiated at the Madrid Supreme Court (see Calendar). Nine of them were later convicted of rioting and misuse of public funds and sentenced to nine to 13 years in prison. Several of them were also banned from being politically active for a number of years (see also Calendar). The prison sentences triggered major protests, especially in Barcelona.

Read more about Spain in UI’s publication Foreign magazine:
Sánchez embraces the left – but Catalonia decides (2019-11-14)
Hard-to-read political situation after the election in Spain (2019-04-30)
Sánchez surprises both supporters and opponents (2018-06- 13)
Reform of Spain’s Constitution Can Unite the Country (2017-10-23)
Catalonia: What do we think of the people’s self-determination? (2017-10-19)
The Barcelona vs Madrid conflict in five acts (2017-10-08)
Referendum to save the government of Catalonia (2017-07-03)

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