(Barcelona) The socialists of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez won a clear victory on Sunday in crucial regional elections in Catalonia, where the separatists of Carles Puigdemont lost their majority, more than six years after the 2017 secession attempt.

Led by Salvador Illa, former Minister of Health during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Catalan socialists won 42 seats in the regional Parliament which has 135. This is nine more than in the last election in February 2021.

Welcoming a “historic” result on X, Pedro Sánchez estimated that a “new stage (is opening) in Catalonia”.

“A step for all Catalans, whatever they think,” added, to the acclamations of his supporters, Mr. Illa, who however remains far from the majority and will have to begin negotiations on Monday with potential allies to hope lead the region.

This result is a victory for Pedro Sánchez who intended to prove that the policy of detente carried out in Catalonia since his coming to power in 2018 has borne fruit and led to a reduction in separatist sentiment in this region of eight million inhabitants which is the one of the country’s economic and industrial engines.

The Prime Minister notably pardoned in 2021 the independence leaders sentenced to prison and agreed at the end of last year to adopt an amnesty law for all separatists pursued by the courts, including Carles Puigdemont, in exchange for the support of their parties to his reappointment for a new four-year term.

This result also represents a breath of fresh air for the socialist at a time when his mandate was weakened by the opening of a judicial investigation against his wife, after whom he considered resigning.

Winning more than 200,000 votes, the Socialists managed to deprive the majority of the separatists who had governed the region for a decade and had attempted to secede from Spain in October 2017, when Carles Puigdemont was head of the regional government .

The three separatist groups having so far the majority of seats in the regional parliament only obtained 59 seats on Sunday compared to 74 in February 2021.

If the formation of Carles Puigdemont, Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia), gained ground by obtaining 35 seats (3), the moderate party ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia) of the current regional president Pere Aragonès was collapsed to 20 seats (-13) like the CUP, a far-left pro-independence group.

Even counting the two seats of the Catalan Alliance, a new far-right separatist formation with which Junts, ERC and the CUP have assuredly refused to ally, the separatists remain far from the absolute majority of 68 seats.

Mr. Puigdemont – who campaigned from the south of France while still under arrest warrant in Spain – had assured that he would withdraw from local politics in the event of failure.

Winner of the vote, the socialist Salvador Illa is however far from the majority and will have to find support to be invested as regional president. In 2021, Mr. Illa had already won the regional elections, but did not succeed in a predominantly independent Parliament.

The hypothesis most cited by analysts is an agreement with the far left, which governs in Spain with Mr. Sánchez, and ERC, the most moderate party among the separatists.

These three parties together hold just an absolute majority with 68 seats.

This election was also marked by a breakthrough for the conservative People’s Party (PP), who obtained 15 seats compared to 3 in 2021 while the far-right Vox party held on with 11 seats.

These two groups, deeply anti-independence, are up against the Catalan policy of Pedro Sánchez and against the amnesty law which must be definitively adopted by the Spanish deputies within a few weeks and allow the return of Carles Puigdemont to Catalonia.

They accuse the Prime Minister, supported in the Spanish Parliament by Junts and ERC, of ​​having become their “hostage” with the simple aim of remaining in power.