The Irish Times view on the Catalan election: tense talking lies ahead in attempts to form an administration

The Spanish prime minister hailed the result as a vindication of his approach, but the region’s politics remain polarised

Controversial attempts by Spanish Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to bring to an end a decade of political and constitutional upheaval in Catalonia last weekend brought tangible rewards from voters and a potentially new dynamic to the region’s turbulent politics. His party’s regional wing, the PSC, topped the poll with 42 seats in the 135-member Catalan parliament, up nine, sharply squeezing the vote of pro-independence parties. It was well short, however, of being enough to govern alone, though the party insists that it will now lead Catalonia into a new era.

Sánchez’s government hailed the result as vindication of its conciliatory approach to the Catalan question – not least to a controversial amnesty for many of those criminalised and in exile for their involvement in the failed independence referendum that convulsed the region’s politics.

Putting together a viable minority government to replace the separatists who have ruled for 14 years, including through that referendum on secession in 2017, will involve tense and difficult negotiations. It is likely to depend on support from outside the government from Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), the pragmatic and least radical brand of separatists. The ERC, who were the big losers in the elections, led the incumbent minority pro-independence government.

Second place on Sunday went to Junts per Catalunya, a hardline separatist party led by Carles Puigdemont, who campaigned from enforced exile in France. The election was called in March by President Pere Aragonès (ERC) after opposition parties voted down the budget proposed by the minority government. It saw voters cut its majority from 74 seats at the last election to 59. Puigdemont says he will nevertheless try to put together a pro-independence minority government, but, without the ERC, it is likely to prove impossible.

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In a measure of the polarisation that continues to mark Catalan politics, , the conservative national opposition, the People’s Party did well, increasing its seats from three to 15, while far-right Vox maintained its 11 seats.

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