Pro-Independence Parties Win Majority in Catalonia Elections, A Blow to Madrid

26 December, 2017, 09:44 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
  • Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media captionA DJ explains why the Cs party is holding a music event

"If Spain wants to win this fight in the long term and prevents Catalonia from leaving one day, it should draft a serious plan for strengthening the state".

But Puigdemont fled to Belgium after October's referendum and subsequent declaration of independence and faces arrest the moment he steps foot back on Spanish soil, raising doubts about his ability to ever hold any office again.

"More than two million people are in favour of Catalonia's independence", Puigdemont said, referring to the election results. "It is impossible to find solutions without dialogue".

Rajoy called the snap election after Puigdemont and his followers declared Catalonia's independence in October following a referendum that was deemed illegal by Spanish authorities.

Instead, his own party performed miserably, and the result raises the question of a return to power for Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan president he had deposed. Madrid Government forced the elections in the rogue region by enforcing the Constitution Article 155 but didn't manage to stop the separatist parties from continuing to rule in Barcelona.

Center-right party Ciudadanos (Citizens) candidates and party members celebrate their polls results in the Catalan regional election in Barcelona on December 21, 2017.

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Acknowledging that unionist parties failed to win a majority Thursday, Rajoy said the results also underscored the region's diversity.

But asked about Mr Puigdemont's request, he responded: "The person I need to meet is Mrs Arrimadas, who is the one who has won the election".

The centre-right anti-independence party was the night's single biggest victor - taking 37 seats in the region's snap election.

Catalonia's separatist parties won 70 of the 135 seats, compared with 72 last time, with Puigdemont's Junts Per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) retaining its position as the largest separatist force. Two other pro-independence parties made up the dominant bloc: the left-wing republican ERC party, which collected 32 seats, and the radical, anti-capitalist CUP, which has four seats.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy won't move an inch when it comes to Catalonia.

The prime minister may speak in the afternoon after a meeting of his party, which saw its number of seats in the Catalan parliament slashed from 11 to just three.

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Rajoy is weakened; the secessionists kept a majority, but it was reduced and they may have difficulty forming a government; and support for the unionist Ciudadanos has surged, but not enough to catapult them into power. However, past squabbles between them suggest it won't be easy.

Madrid's direct rule over Catalonia is due to expire when a new Catalan government is formed. "As there's a lack of stability here, people who were investing here are going to other cities and other regions", said Rafael Prisco, commercial director in a real estate agent in central Barcelona that deals mostly with foreign clients.

A reminder of their potential legal woes came when a judge investigating them for leading an illegal independence push in October announced he is widening the rebellion and sedition probe to six more Catalan politicians.

"The EU complained that not everyone voted in the referendum [on 1 October] but now everyone has had a chance to vote, we have had a record turnout, so it is only fair that they listen to us", said Raquel Santiago, who works for the Fire Service.

With the count from Thursday's Catalan parliament election nearly complete, separatist parties had secured a slim majority, sending stocks down around 1% on fears that the euro zone's fourth-largest economy will be hurt by tensions with its richest region. The 54-year-old historian wanted Spanish authorities to "sit down to negotiate on a realistic basis".

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