'It Is My Intention to Become Catalonia's Next President'

Socialist Party of ex-Health Minister Salvador Illa makes gains in election, separatists lose majority
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 13, 2024 8:31 AM CDT
In Catalonia, a 'New Era' in Government
An early voter casts his ballot for Catalonia's regional elections in La Roca del Valles, north of Barcelona, on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Six years after plunging Spain into its worst political crisis in decades, Catalonia's separatist parties are in danger of losing their hold on power in the northeastern region after the pro-union Socialist Party scored a historic result in Sunday's election. The four pro-independence parties, led by the Together party of former regional president Carles Puigdemont, were set to get a total of 61 seats, according to a near-complete count of the ballots, reports the AP. That's short of the key figure of 68 seats needed for a majority in the chamber. The Socialists, led by former Health Minister Salvador Illa, savored their best result in a Catalan election, claiming 42 seats, up from 33 in 2021, when they also barely won the most votes but were unable to form a government.

This was the first time the Socialists led a Catalan election in both votes and seats won. "Catalonia has decided to open a new era," Illa told supporters at his party headquarters. "Catalan voters have decided that the Socialist Party will lead this new era, and it is my intention to become Catalonia's next president." Illa led Spain's response to the COVID-19 pandemic before Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez sent him back to Barcelona to lead his party. The 58-year-old Illa's calm tone and focus on social issues convinced many voters that it was time for change after years of separatists pressing for severing century-old ties with the rest of Spain.

Sanchez congratulated Illa on X for the "historic result." The Socialists will need to earn the backing of other parties to put Illa in charge. Deal-making in the coming days, maybe weeks, will be key to forming a government. Neither a hung parliament nor a new election is out of the question. More here, including on how Illa could win 68 seats. (More Catalonia stories.)

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