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Fugitive Catalan leader holds keyto Spanish electoral impasse

BARCELONA/MADRID: A Catalan independence leader on the run from Spanish justice could hold the key to unlocking a political impasse after Sunday’s election ended in a hung parliament.

Former Catalan regional government head Carles Puigdemont, who lives in self-imposed exile in Belgium since leading a failed push to split Catalonia from Spain in 2017, unexpectedly finds himself a potential kingmaker after no bloc on the left or right won enough seats to form a majority.

One path out of the labyrinth would be for Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to secure a vote in favour, or at least an abstention, in a parliamentary vote on forming a government from Puigdemont’s Junts party in exchange for further concessions on independence.

The centre-right People’s Party (PP) and the far-right Vox won the most seats in parliament with a combined 169 – short of the 176 seats needed for a majority and confounding poll predictions.

The ruling Socialists (PSOE) and far-left Sumar won 153 but have more possibilities for negotiating support from small Basque and Catalan separatist parties, as they did following 2019’s election.

Sanchez could win over left-wing separatist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya. But he will likely also need the backing of the more hardline Junts.