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Spain's amnesty bill back to lower house after Senate veto

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
Spain's amnesty bill back to lower house after Senate veto
Protestors hold signs during a demonstration called by the opposition party Partido Popular (PP) against the government's amnesty law for people involved in Catalonia's failed 2017 independence bid, and "in defense of a country of free and equal citizens", on the Plaza de Espana square in Madrid, on January 28, 2024. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Spain's Senate, which is dominated by the right-wing opposition, on Tuesday vetoed a controversial amnesty bill, returning it to the lower house in a symbolic gesture that won't stop it becoming law.

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The opposition Popular Party presented a proposal to veto in relation to the bill to grant amnesty to Catalan separatists involved in the failed 2017 independence bid, which "was approved", with 149 votes in favour to 113 against.

It is only a token show of disapproval as Spain's Senate is not empowered to block a bill, only to propose amendments or a veto.

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The bill now returns to the lower house, the Congreso, where it is expected to receive its final green light in the coming weeks.

Tuesday's Senate vote can be lifted by an absolute majority in the lower house within two months, or by just a simple majority once that period of time passes.

The bill seeks to draw a line under years of efforts to prosecute those involved in the botched secession bid that triggered Spain's worst political crisis in decades.

The biggest beneficiary would be Carles Puigdemont - the former Catalan leader who led the failed secession bid who fled Spain to avoid prosecution.

Drafted by the ruling Socialists and two Catalan separatist parties and approved by lawmakers in March before going to the Senate, the text is the most controversial piece of legislation parliament has voted on since Sánchez came to power in 2018.

Catalan separatist parties including Puigdemont's hardline JxCat and its moderate rival ERC demanded the law in exchange for their parliamentary support for Sánchez to secure a new four-year term in office in November.

The Spanish right -- which sees Puigdemont as public enemy number one -- has been implacably opposed to the bill, accusing Sánchez of letting himself be "held hostage" by the separatists in order to stay in power.

The separatists suffered a setback when they lost their ruling majority in Sunday's regional elections in Catalonia where they have governed for a decade, with Sánchez's Socialists coming top.

Although they are now seeking support to build a governing majority, Puigdemont insisted Monday he would try to piece together his own minority alliance to govern the region.

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