Sanchez’s Socialists Set to Win First Place in Catalan Elections, Poll Shows

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(Bloomberg) -- Spain’s Socialist party is headed for a comfortable win in Catalonia’s regional elections May 12, but will fall well short of a majority, according to a poll by newspaper El Mundo.

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Socialist candidate Salvador Illa is set to win between 41 and 43 seats in the local legislature, up from the current 33, according to a poll of some 3,000 voters by Sigma Dos published in El Mundo Monday. A majority requires 68 lawmakers. Smaller polls in three other publications Monday also show the Socialist party with similar estimates.

Second place will go to self-exiled separatist Carles Puigdemont’s Junts per Catalunya, with 28 to 31 seats, while the left-wing pro-independence party of regional President Pere Aragones would come in third, with 27-30 seats. Both parties are staunch rivals but also Socialist allies in the national parliament in Madrid. Puigdemont has been living in Brussels for seven years.

The estimates mean it would be hard to form a government, adding a new layer of uncertainty to Spanish politics. The country has been in a political stalemate for nearly a year, as Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez struggles to pass legislation in the fragmented parliament, where he needs to negotiate with as many as eight parties, including the two Catalan separatist groups.

Winning the government from the separatists would be a huge victory for Sanchez, especially after the premier agreed on an amnesty for hundreds of pro-independence activists facing criminal charges for their involvement in the attempt to break the region away from Spain in 2017, including Puigdemont. Sanchez has tried to portray himself as the person who brought political normality back to Catalonia, the country’s second largest region.

Still, it’s far from clear that the Socialist candidate, Salvador Illa, would be able to form a government, because neither Junts nor ERC have said they are willing to support him. Analysts are estimating that it’s likely that parties may fail to form a government and the region may have to hold a second election this year.

Monday’s El Mundo poll also shows the far-right pro-independence party Alianca Catalana winning 2 to 4 seats, entering the local legislature for the first time.

The poll in El Mundo was conducted by phone between April 25 and May 2 and has a 2.1% margin of error.

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