The Politics of Absolution

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The Spanish parliament on Thursday approved a controversial amnesty law for Catalan nationalists involved in the 2017 referendum and failed independence bid, a measure that had previously been blocked by conservatives who called it “corrupt,” the BBC reported.

The law passed with a narrow majority with 177 votes in favor and 172 against, six months after the Socialist Party (PSOE) of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez unveiled it.

Following a preliminary parliamentary vote in March, the opposition-controlled upper house delayed its passage – but could not block it.

Judges will have two months to apply the law once it is published. While appeals are possible, they are not expected to impede its implementation.

The amnesty will benefit nearly 400 Catalan nationalists facing prosecution since November 2011, including police prosecuted for attacking voters during the 2017 referendum.

The most notable beneficiary is Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan president, who led the 2017 secession drive, and who fled the country to Belgium soon after.

Puigdemont’s Together for Catalonia (JxCat) party, along with the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), demanded the amnesty bill in return for their support for Sánchez’s coalition government. Puigdemont plans to return to Spain for an investiture vote in the Catalan regional parliament in June, despite insufficient support to form a government.

However, right-wing parties, including the conservative People’s Party (PP) and the far-right Vox, opposed the legislation and said it gives preferential treatment to Catalans, also accusing Sánchez of pushing the law through parliament for political survival.

In a heated parliamentary session, PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo called the amnesty “political corruption,” but PSOE officials countered that the law, alongside a 2022 pardon of nine jailed independence leaders, has “normalized politics in Catalonia.”

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