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Spain's Socialist Party forms coalition government with Catalan separatist parties


Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez looks poised to secure another four years in power tomorrow by forming a coalition in parliament. But to do that, he made a deal that opponents say threatens the country's unity. Miguel Macias reports from Seville.



MIGUEL MACIAS, BYLINE: On the evening of July 23, Socialist Petro Sanchez, the Spanish prime minister, lost the general election to his conservative rival. But that night, Sanchez was celebrating outside of his party's headquarters with his followers because he already knew he had a good chance to form a coalition government.


MACIAS: Fast-forward to this past week at the very same place. Police in riot gear were defending the Socialist's party headquarters from a siege by conservative protesters, some of them openly violent, a minority of them even showing fascist gestures and chants.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting in Spanish).

MACIAS: And this past Sunday, hundreds of thousands of people went out peacefully in cities across the country to protest a certain amnesty law. An amnesty for separatists in Catalonia.

SILVIA DE CARRION: (Through interpreter) What is happening in Spain is a frontal attack to our democracy, an attack to the separation of powers.

MACIAS: That is Silvia de Carrion, an attorney protesting in the center of Seville on Sunday.

CARRION: (Through interpreter) Under an amnesty law that doesn't really exist, that they want to implement just for the purpose of staying in power. It's an undercover coup d'etat.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting in Spanish).

MACIAS: Puigdemont to prison, they're chanting, about Carles Puigdemont, a former president of the region of Catalonia who promoted a referendum in 2017 for Catalonia's independence from Spain.

MARIA RAMIREZ: It was a so-called illegal referendum because it was not authorized by the central government.

MACIAS: That is Maria Ramirez, deputy managing editor for the online newspaper El Diario in Spain. The police tried to stop that referendum for independence. There was violence in that day, and in the aftermath, some of these separatist leaders actually went to prison, but Carles Puigdemont escaped.

RAMIREZ: Escaped in a trunk of a car from Catalonia. And just to avoid prosecution, he fled to Brussels.

MACIAS: And that brings us back to today. And Sanchez's efforts to stay in power.

RAMIREZ: So for Sanchez, the really only way was to just find some kind of deal with Puigdemont and his party.

MACIAS: The deal was amnesty for Puigdemont and for hundreds of others who supported the independence referendum of 2017. Sanchez, in exchange, will get the votes he needs in Parliament to remain in office. But voters across the country are simply furious. They accuse Pedro Sanchez of handing a triumph to the separatists.

BERNAT DEDEU: If there's something clear, it's that it is not a triumph.

MACIAS: That is Bernat Dedeu, a Catalan philosopher and supporter of the separatist movement. He says that people are getting this whole thing wrong. Puigdemont got amnesty but gave up on the main demand from separatists - a promise of a future referendum for independence.

DEDEU: Carles Puigdemont, our former president, said that he would never agree to forget about the necessity of doing a referendum in Catalonia, which is not included in the text of the amnesty.

MACIAS: Furthermore, Dedeu says separatists like him can't trust Pedro Sanchez to even follow through on his promises when it comes to this amnesty. And the amnesty is already being challenged in court.

DEDEU: Pedro Sanchez is a Machiavellian politician, and he has achieved what he wanted.

MACIAS: And as the deal says, and many on the right and the left agree, the only real winner here is Pedro Sanchez.

For NPR News, I'm Miguel Macias in Seville.

(SOUNDBITE OF COSMONKEY'S "SAN MARINO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Miguel Macias
Miguel Macias is a Senior Producer at All Things Considered, where he is proud to work with a top-notch team to shape the content of the daily show.