Catalan crisis deepens as separatist tensions force snap election

AFP - [email protected]
Catalan crisis deepens as separatist tensions force snap election

Catalonia's separatist president Quim Torra said Wednesday that the wealthy northeastern Spanish region would hold a snap election this year following a major dispute between its two ruling parties, both staunchly pro-independence


He did not say when the regional vote would be held but pledged to announce a date after the budget is passed, in the next few months.   

"This legislature has no political future," Torra said in a televised speech, referring to his coalition government which comprises Together for Catalonia (JxC) and the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC).

"Our two parties in government have approached the path to independence in such a way that it has damaged the mutual trust that was needed at decisive moments," said Torra, who is a member of JxC, the party of former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont.

Puigdemont fled Spain to avoid prosecution over the failed 2017 independence bid while his deputy, Oriol Junqueras -- who heads the rival ERC - stayed behind and was handed a 13-year jail sentence.

Regional elections take place every four years, with the last polls held in December 2017.

"Once parliament has passed the budget, I will announce a date for the election," Torra said of a process which is expected to take around two months. The last regional budget was passed in 2017.

Tensions between the parties came to a head on Monday when Torra lost his status as a regional lawmaker following his conviction last month for "disobedience" for failing to remove separatist symbols from public buildings
during an election campaign.   

The court banned him from holding public office for 18 months with the electoral commission ordering the Catalan parliament to immediately suspend his status as an MP. However, he will remain president until Spain's Supreme Court rules on the outcome of his appeal.

JxC decided to ignore the order and asked the ERC to do the same -- but it refused, saying it would render all decisions in which Torra cast a vote null and void, effectively paralysing parliament.

Allies in government since 2016, JxC and ERC are both striving to lead the separatist movement.

Torra's announcement comes ahead of a key February 6 meeting with Spain's Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to discuss ways of resolving the separatist conflict.

Sanchez was sworn in three weeks ago at the helm of a minority coalition government after narrowly passing an investiture vote thanks to the crucial support of ERC.

In return, ERC demanded he open talks with Catalonia's government over the "political conflict" but the deal was frowned upon by JxC.



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