Catalan Independence On Hold After Elections
The separatist CiU, Convergence and Union alliance, party led by current Catalan President Artur Mas were relected yesterday, but crucially failed to get the majority they needed for leading a referendum on independence.
Voters in the region, frustrated with the continuing economic crisis in Spain and angry at the Spanish tax system, which they feel places too much burden on Catalonia, handed almost two-thirds of the 135-seat parliament to four different separatist parties. Meaning that - ironically for Mas and the CiU - that they have lost 12 seats, after rival separatist parties backed similar referendums.
"Mas clearly made a mistake. He promoted a separatist agenda and the people have told him they want other people to carry out his agenda," said Jose Ignacio Torreblanca, head of the European Council on Foreign Relations' Madrid office.
After the largest ever pro-independence rally took place in Barcelona in September, Mas has been trying to ride the separatist wave. However the cutbacks he has been forced to make to prevent Catalonia going bankrupt (he unsuccessfully demanded a 5 billion pay out from Madrid), have made him unpopular in many quarters, allowing other political parties to gain ground. In a speech to supporters on Sunday night Mas acknowledged the weakening of the CiU's ruling position, admitting that he would now need the support of another party to govern.
"We've fallen well short of the majority we had. We've been ruling for two years under very tough circumstances," he said.
Catalonia's traditional separatist party, the Republican Left, or ERC, made the biggest headway at the elections, rising from 10 to 21 seats. The Socialists won 20 seats and Mariano Rajoy's centre/right People's Party won 19. Three other parties, two of which backed a referendum on independence, split the remaining 25 seats.
Additional sources for this article were The Independent and Reuters.