Historical process begins: Spain as "hostage" of the separatists
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Madrid / Barcelona (AP) - After more than a year of "ceasefire", the Catalan separatist conflict threatens to plunge Spain into chaos again.
For the first time, 12 leaders of the independence movement, who played key roles in the "hot autumn" of 2017, are sitting in the dock at the Madrid Supreme Court. The group led by former vice-president Oriol Junqueras is facing imprisonment of up to 25 years. But the separatists do not throw in the towel. On the contrary, these days they are in some ways more powerful and, above all, more dangerous than ever.
On Wednesday, just 24 hours after the start of the historic process, which has been accredited by more than 600 journalists from around the world, Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez needs the support of the Catalan parties in the National Parliament The vote will bring its budget through and prevent a premature end to its minority government and a new election. Of course, the Catalans Sánchez do not want to give their "decisive 17" votes "free".
Among other things, they demand that the head of government oppose harsh judgments for Junqueras & Co. and also agree to a debate on the region's right to self-determination in the northeast. Sánchez has not given in. The socialist was still a "hostage" to the Catalans, wrote the daily newspaper "El Mundo" on the weekend. In fact, if neither side retreats and the Catalans make their threat on Wednesday and vote with the conservative opposition to the budget, Sánchez could (have to) prioritize the general election due in June 2020.
On Monday he first brought the 14th April as a possible date for the game. Before, the 26th of May had been called the so-called "Super Sunday" several times, but this does not thrill all socialists, wrote the media. On this spring day in Spain, the European elections and many regional elections are on the agenda, so that the supporters of the Socialist Workers Party PSOE in the opinion of Sánchez may be better mobilized.
Sánchez is not only besieged by the Catalans. On Sunday, tens of thousands followed the appeal of the conservative PP, the liberal Ciudadanos and the far-right Vox, to take to the streets in Madrid for a new election. The main allegation: The government is too compliant to the separatists. Sánchez is a "traitor" who puts the unity of the country on the line, say the political opponents. And that's not all: The Catalonia policy of the 46-year-old is also criticized by PSOE founding fathers such as Felipe González and Alfonso Guerra.
A new election seems to be more likely with every passing minute. At the thought of many Spaniards is queasy - because the memories are still fresh: Due to the end of the de facto two-party system of PP and PSOE and a fragmentation of votes was 2016 despite two ballots within six months for almost a year without regular government. Subsequently, the weak conservative government of Mariano Rajoy held only a good one and a half years. In June 2018, Sánchez Rajoy brought by a vote of no confidence from the Moncloa Palace - supported by the separatist deputies. The situation is now even more explosive. Because the three years ago virtually non-existent right-wing party Vox would today, according to surveys of observed institutions in elections to get up to 13 percent of the vote and move into the national parliament for the first time.
Meanwhile, the budget vote causes the separatists to smell morning air again. And the start of proceedings in Madrid makes them more belligerent, giving them new combat energy. Protests against the "trial of political prisoners" will take place in the coming days and weeks, including in Brussels, where ex-regional president Carles Puigdemont continues to pull the strings in exile, but also in German cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart and Cologne.
"Never before have the political future of Spain, the country's internal cohesion and its international reputation been so dependent on legal proceedings," the newspaper El País summarized. The phase of the hearing of the approximately 600 witnesses alone will take three months. The verdicts are not expected before July. If the defendants are sentenced to long prison terms, the anger of the independence movement will probably be discharged with concentrated power. Who in Madrid then the possibly very hot potatoes from the fire will have to get, this is in view of the impending new election but still in the stars.