Catalonia’s pro-independence coalition government is on the verge of collapse after its junior member decided to abandon it, in the most significant crisis within the Spanish region’s separatist movement in the past decade.
In an internal vote on Friday, 55.7 percent of members of the Junts party approved leaving the regional coalition government amid a dispute with the Republican Left of Catalonia (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya) party spearheading the administration, the Junts said in a statement.
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Members’ turnout was 79.1 percent.
Catalan President Pere Aragones said he would not call early elections. Instead, his left-wing ERC intends to govern with a minority.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called for “stability” in a news conference in Prague where he was attending a European Union summit.
“In these difficult and complex times, the stability of governments is essential,” he said.
“I back stability, in this case of the government of Catalonia.”
A Junts spokesperson told Reuters before the result’s announcement that its leadership would abide by the binding vote.
Laura Borras, president of Junts, said in a news conference in Barcelona that Aragones “had lost democratic legitimacy”.
The separatists’ crisis erupted five years after Catalonia’s chaotic bid for independence plunged Spain into its worst political crisis in decades.
Esquerra suggested in recent days it would not call a snap election should its junior governing partner decide to quit, but governing alone would be challenging given the left-wing party lacks a parliamentary majority. The coalition was formed in May 2021.
The heart of the dispute is about the pace towards independence, an issue that divides moderates and hardliners.
Esquerra has favoured negotiation with Madrid to agree on a binding referendum and expanding Catalans’ support for leaving Spain. About 52 percent of Catalans oppose independence and 41 percent back it, according to a June poll.
Junts, which led the wealthy northeastern region when its government embraced independence in 2012, has backed a more aggressive approach, shunning talks with Madrid and potentially repeating the events of 2017.
Catalonia then held an independence referendum despite a ban by the courts and in the face of Madrid’s opposition, and later issued a short-lived independence declaration. Several high-profile leaders were jailed for close to four years in connection with those events while others went into self-imposed exile.
Junts announced plans for an internal vote on staying in the government last week following the sacking by Catalonia’s leader of his deputy, who belongs to Junts, after the party proposed a parliamentary vote of confidence in the government.