Catalonia's separatist government near collapse after junior party's exit
In an internal vote, 55.7% of members of the Junts party approved leaving the regional coalition government amid a dispute with the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya party spearheading the administration, Junts said in a statement.
Catalonia's pro-independence coalition government was on the verge of collapse on Friday 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, 55.7% of members of the Junts party approved leaving the regional coalition government amid a dispute with the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya party spearheading the administration, Junts said in a statement. Members' turnout was 79.1%.
"In these difficult and complex times the stability of governments is essential," Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a news conference in Prague where he was attending a European Union summit. "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 the Catalan President Pere 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 that it would not call a snap election should its junior governing partner decide to quit, but governing alone would be challenging given that the leftist 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 hard-liners. Esquerra favors a negotiation with Madrid to agree on a binding referendum and expanding Catalans' support for leaving Spain. Around 52% of Catalans oppose independence and 41% back it, according to a June poll.
Junts, which led the wealthy northeastern region when its government embraced independence in 2012, backs 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.
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