Catalonia crisis: now what?

Snap election sees pro-separatist parties retain their hold on Catalonia

Mariano Rajoy
Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy
(Image credit: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)

Deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has declared victory for the pro-independence alliance in snap elections this week, after the region’s three separatist parties won a total of 70 seats - two more than the 68 needed for an absolute majority in the 135-seat parliament.

The Together for Catalonia party claimed 34 seats, while the other two separatist parties, Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and Popular Unity (CUP), won a combined 36.

The result means the independents can retain control of Catalonia’s regional government, reports Sky News. But now what?

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Spain’s next move

“Madrid is expected to maintain direct rule at least until a new regional president is chosen by the parliament,” The Times says.

If a new president is not chosen by April, parliament will be dissolved and fresh elections called in May.

Can Catalan leaders rule from exile?

Puigdemont is in exile in Brussels facing arrest if he returns to Spain. In all, seven of the 70 separatists elected are either in jail or in exile on allegations of sedition and rebellion.

“Unless they are released or they return home, they cannot vote in parliament to form a workable majority,” Reuters says “They could hope to be freed or have arrest warrants dropped if they swore not to pursue independence unilaterally. But that, in turn, could jeopardise support for a Puigdemont government from Catalonia’s most vehement pro-independence party, the CUP.”

Puigdemont told reporters today that he would like to meet Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy for talks. “We have earned our right to be listened to,” Puigdemont said.

What does the result mean for Rajoy?

“The biggest loser of election night was the People’s Party (PP) of Prime Minister Rajoy, which obtained only three seats,” says political risk analyst Antonio Barroso, according to Spain’s The Local. Barroso adds that “2018 will likely be the year in which it will become clearer whether or not Rajoy can survive for a full term”.

What is the EU’s next move?

The EU has backed Rajoy so far, saying the debate is an internal matter for Spain. The European Commission today reiterated its threat to remove Catalonia from the Brussels bloc if it becomes independent from Spain, reports the Daily Express.

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