Pro-independence parties have claimed that their victory in Catalan regional elections now gives them a mandate to continue with plans to break away from Spain – but opposition parties and the mainstream media noted yesterday that parties opposed to independence took 52 per cent of the votes.
Madrid-based newspapers noted most voters had backed parties that were against independence, with El Pais’ front-page headline proclaiming: “The independents win the election but lose the referendum.”
The Conservative Abc newspaper wrote: “Catalonia does not want to go.”
With almost 100 per cent of the vote counted, the “Together for Yes” group of secessionists headed by regional government president Artur Mas, won 62 seats in the 135-member regional parliament on Sunday, which was short of an outright majority and obliging it to seek support from the radical pro-independence Popular Unity Candidacy party known as CUP, which won ten seats.
Mas claimed the victory gave his group “enormous strength to push this project forward”.
But the CUP has pledged not to back Mas, setting the scene for tough negotiations.
“The negotiations in the coming days are crucial for the future of the secessionist movement,” said Antonio Barroso, a London-based political risk analyst.
“Mas still wants to lead the process and it is unclear whether he would allow an alternative candidate to be elected PM without dissolving the pro-independence coalition.”
The threat of Catalonia breaking away from Spain has dominated the country’s political scene and has been a constant source of dispute between Mas and the ruling conservative Popular Party of prime minister Mariano Rajoy, which rejects any possibility of Catalan independence as unconstitutional.
Rajoy must call a general election by the year-end. Polls suggest his party will lose its majority in the national parliament.
The Popular Party won just 11 seats in the Catalan elections, eight fewer than in the previous legislature. The Popular Party and the Socialists, who won 16 seats, were overtaken by the anti-independence Citizens party, which won 25 up from nine.