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New elections expected in Catalonia

January 5, 2016

Catalonia's independence leader has announced that he is set to call fresh regional elections if a new government is not agreed on. Spain's national government has also not yet formed a coalition government.

Catalan acting President Artur Mas gestures during a news conference
Image: Reuters/A. Gea

Artur Mas, leader of Catalonia's secessionist alliance, announced on Tuesday that he will call for new regional elections unless he gains political support.

"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," Mas told reporters in Barcelona on Tuesday.

The region's deputies have until Sunday (January 9) to form a new government and agree on a leader. If not, the regional parliament will be dissolved and call for elections, Mas said, adding that the elections would likely take place on March 6.

The Catalonia separatist leader, who set a goal for the region to be independent from Spain by 2017, has been unable to gain support from the more radical, far-left separatist CUP party. Last September, Mas' "Together for Yes" alliance won 62 seats in the 135-seat regional parliament and has been trying for over three months to secure a majority with the CUP - which has 10 seats.

Despite intense negotiations, CUP refused to back Mas as the regional president due to his past government's austerity policies, as well as his ties to corruption scandals. The party said, however, that they would support another candidate from the "Together for Yes" alliance, but Mas has ruled out that option.

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

Spain's acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also commented on the possibility of new regional elections on Tuesday, saying: "I sincerely don't know what could possibly happen in the next five days, but I believe that the best that could happen is that Mas drops his independence drive and, as that doesn't seem possible, there's no alternative to elections," he said in a radio interview.

Spain's political stalemate

The failure of Catalonia to form a government reflects the current political stalemate paralyzing Spain. The recent national election on December 20 was inconclusive, with Rajoy's center-right People's Party failing to win a majority in the country's 305-seat parliament.

Election results also showed that the main opposition Socialists also lost droves of supporters. However, two new parties, the left-wing Podemos (We Can) and the liberal Cuiadadanos (Citizens), debuted in the national parliament and are set to shake up the political atmosphere.

The impending Catalan election, which would be the fourth since 2010, also increases the chances that Spaniards will have to return to the polls for a second national election this year, should a new coalition government not be reached.

rs/bk (AP, AFP, Reuters)