PEDRO Sanchez, the Spanish prime minister, is facing a difficult task in his country’s April 28 general election, in which independence for Catalonia could play a significant part.

His socialist (PSOE) led government came to power with the support of Catalan and Basque members to overthrow his Popular Party (PP) predecessor Mariano Rajoy, but he had to maintain their support to ensure that legislation – and budgets – progressed smoothly through parliament.

That did not happen and, when he found himself unable to have his financial plans approved, he decided to go to the country.

The National:

Catalonia will feature in election campaigning, which started yesterday, as this is the first poll for the Spanish Parliament since the October 2017 referendum and declaration of independence.

Some parties have taken a hard line – early in his tenure Sanchez scotched any hope that he would discuss self-determination – but others have called for dialogue, with or without its inclusion.

The fact that five of the election candidates in Catalonia are in jail is also likely to impact on the result. Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Jordi Sànchez and Raül Romeva have been refused permission by the courts to take part in any campaigning events, or to hold rallies from the prison where they are being held.

Junqueras leads the pro-indy Esquerra Republicana (ERC) – the Republican Left of Catalonia – which has been performing well in the polls, and its first election call was in his home town on his 50th birthday, the day he was refused freedom to campaign.

ERC candidate Gabriel Rufián nailed his colours firmly to the republican mast when he called for two referendums – one on Catalan self-determination, the other for the monarchy or a republic in Spain.

The National:

Meritxell Batet, Spain’s territorial policies minister, kicked off the PSOE campaign in Santa Coloma, a suburb of Barcelona, where she tops her party’s list.

PSOE hope to have the numbers in Congress to allow them to stay in power – although they are not likely to form a majority.

The Together for Catalonia (JxCat) coalition, with jailed Jordi Sànchez as a main candidate, launched in Barcelona, where ex-Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was among the speakers – albeit via proxy.

Citizens also chose Barcelona, with Inés Arrimadas delivering a strong anti-independence line.

The anti-indy PP went further, with a pledge to suspend Catalan self-rule, a risky move with feelings still running high after Rajoy imposed direct rule from Madrid following Catalonia’s UDI.

In Common We Can has seen success in Catalonia in the past, but its support appears to have dropped in the polls.

The far-left alliance Front Republicà has promised to “blockade” Congress if it can.

However, all eyes will be on the far-right Vox, which found itself king-maker after winning 12 seats and 11% of the vote in the southern Andalusia region.

The Catholic ultra-conservatives, who are anti-immigration nationalists, reached an agreement to support a Citizens and PP coalition, the first time a far-right party has won parliamentary representation since Spain’s return to democracy.

Vox is opposed to gender equality laws and a fiercely opposed to autonomy for Spain’s regions, never mind self-determination.

It is a relatively new party and was only founded in 2013 – by former members of the PP.