Friday

15th Nov 2019

Spanish socialist leader strengthened by EU vote

  • Spanish foreign affairs minister and former president of the European parliament, Josep Borrell (r), will be Pedro Sanchez's (l) main man in Brussels (Photo: PSOE)

The Spanish social democrats becomes the biggest national group among the European socialists, after winning the Spanish European election on Sunday (26 May), which also sees a Catalan separatist in jail elected as MEP.

The high voter turnout in Spain was boosted by local and regional elections also held across the country.

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  • The high voter turnout in Spain was boosted by local and regional elections also held across the country (Photo: Helena Spongenberg)

"It is a pride, an opportunity, and a huge responsibility to be the main Social Democratic delegation in the European Parliament. We will work for a progressive, social democratic and left alternative to austerity policies", Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted on Sunday night. "A social Europe that protects and redistributes."

Sanchez told the press after the results came out, that the priorities of the Spanish delegation in Brussels will be to use the fight against climate change and the digitalisation of the economy, as opportunities to create jobs, as well as, making gender equality a priority.

The current foreign affairs minister and former president of the European parliament, Josep Borrell, will be Sanchez's main man in Brussels. He is expected to get a senior position in one of the European institutions.

In total, the Spanish socialists won 20 seats of Spain's 54 seats in the European parliament, up from 14 in 2014, while conservative party Partido Popular was down from 16 to 12 seats.

The Spanish liberal party, Ciudadanos, increased its number of MEPs from two to seven, while the newly-emerged extreme right in Spain, Vox, enters the the EP for the first time with three seats.

Imprisoned and exiled MEPs

Catalan separatist leaders Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont were also voted in as European lawmakers. However, it is still unclear if they can actually become MEPs.

Junqueras is in prison and under trial for charges on rebellion due to his involvement in the 2017 Catalan independence referendum, judged illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court. He could face more than 20 years in prison. He was an MEP from 2009 to 2012.

Only days before the European parliament election, Junqueras was suspended from his seat in the Spanish national parliament, together with three other Catalan separatists also in custody, after they won their seat in the Spanish general elections last month.

Puigdemont, who is the former Catalan leader and in a self-imposed exile in Belgium since 2017, is likely to be arrested on the same charges, if he returns to Spain to do the paperwork needed to represent his constituency in the European parliament.

His former regional government minister, Antoni Comin, is also elected MEP, but also likely to be arrested if he returns to Spain for his involvement in the Catalan independence move.

Both separatist leaders see their election as an MEP as a way to highlight their Catalan cause in Europe.

Reflection of national election

The European election results in Spain mirrored the national general elections a month ago, where the socialists made big gains and the conservatives lost support.

The high voter participation in Spain of 64.3 percent, is boosted by the fact that the Spanish also voted in local elections in 12 of its 17 regions.

The fact that the socialists also did well in the local and regional elections, might make Sanchez stand stronger as he still needs to form a government, as he did not get an absolute majority in parliament.

In the capital Madrid, a coalition of right-wing parties Partido Popular, Ciudadanos, and Vox, is likely to replace left-wing Manuela Carmena.

And in Spain's second biggest city, republican Ernest Maragall ousted Barcelona's outgoing mayor Ada Colau by only 5,000 votes.

Opinion

Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

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