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Spain leader defends amnesty deal for Catalan in parliament ahead of vote to form new government

MADRID (AP) — Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will defend his controversial amnesty deal for Catalonia’s separatists in parliament…

MADRID (AP) — Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will defend his controversial amnesty deal for Catalonia’s separatists in parliament by midday Wednesday as part of a debate a day before the Socialist leader seeks the endorsement of the chamber to form a new government.

Sánchez has tied up the public support of six smaller parties to ensure that he can reach the absolute majority of 176 deputies voting in favor of reestablishing his minority coalition government with the left-wing Sumar (Joining Forces) party.

Controversy arose after deals were signed with two Catalan separatist parties which included a commitment to pass an amnesty law that would wipe the slate clean for hundreds of Catalan separatists who had run afoul of the law for their roles in the wealthy northeast region’s failed 2017 secession bid. The deals include former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont, who is a fugitive from Spanish law after he fled to Belgium six years ago.

If, however, Sánchez, who has been prime minister since 2018 and one of the longest-serving Socialist leaders in Europe, were to lose Thursday’s vote, he would have a second chance on Saturday to win more “yes” than “no” votes.

The amnesty agreement has sparked protests in Madrid and even in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia. Spain’s opposition conservative and far-right parties accuse Sánchez of betraying the nation for granting the amnesty just to hold onto power. More protests are expected in downtown Madrid where the parliament building is under tight security.

Spain’s judges have heavily criticized the proposed amnesty, calling it an intrusion of the legislative branch into the separation of powers. The European Union is also reviewing the proposed amnesty.

If Sánchez is backed by the 350-member lower chamber, the formation of a new government will end a period of political uncertainty since inconclusive national elections on July 23 left a highly fractured parliament.

___ Wilson reported from Barcelona, Spain.

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