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france 24 Europe

New Catalonia poll mooted as separatists struggle to form government

© The leader of Catalonia's regional government, Artur Mas, is struggling to form a coalition government before Sunday's deadline.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-01-05

Catalonia's outgoing separatist leader Artur Mas said Tuesday he was reluctantly "ready" to call fresh parliamentary elections as the Spanish region's secessionist factions that won September polls failed to agree on who should lead a new government.

"I'm ready – against my will, this is not what we wanted and it is not what I want – but I'm ready to sign the decree to convene elections," he told reporters in Barcelona as a January 9 deadline to form a new government approached.

Calling fresh elections – which would be the fourth since 2010 in Catalonia – would be a setback for the region's secessionist drive, which has been a major thorn in the side of Madrid.

Mas's "Together for Yes" secessionist alliance – helped by the small, far-left separatist CUP party – won a majority of seats in the 135-seat Catalan parliament in September elections in the wealthy, 7.5-million-strong northeastern region.

But the honeymoon was short-lived as "Together for Yes", which won 62 seats, battled with the CUP to form a government.

Negotiations floundering

Despite more than three months of intense negotiations, the small party that got 10 seats refused to give Mas the backing he needs to lead Catalonia again, resenting the austerity measures he implemented and the corruption scandals linked to his party.

"I don't know if they realise the magnitude of the mistake they are making," Mas told reporters.

Catalonia, a region of 7.5 million people with its own language, accounts for a fifth of Spain's economic output, and already enjoys a large degree of autonomy in education, health and policing.

But it is insisting on even greater autonomy, particularly where taxation is concerned, estimating that it gives more to the central government than it receives.

Separatist parties' bids for independence have been fiercely resisted by the central government in Madrid.

At Madrid's request, last November Spain's Constitutional Court suspended a resolution passed by Catalonia's parliament that declared the start of a secession process.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2016-01-05

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