by Joan Faus and Jessica Jones
BARCELONA (Reuters) – Catalonia’s various pro-independence parties won enough seats on Sunday to bolster their majority in the regional parliament, even though the score of the local branch of the ruling Socialist Party in Spain suggests dialogue, rather than a rupture , with the government in Madrid.
After counting 99% of the ballots, the separatists were given victorious 50.9% of the votes, crossing for the first time the threshold of 50%.
The most likely scenario is that the two main separatist parties renew their outgoing government coalition.
However, no one expects a repeat of the 2017 showdown between the region and the central power of Madrid. Tensions, which had then reached an unprecedented level, have since ebbed and voters on Sunday were more concerned about the coronavirus epidemic.
It is possible that the low turnout against the backdrop of the health crisis, 53% against 79% in the previous election in 2017, favored the separatist parties, whose supporters mobilized.
In the polling stations, assessors donned coveralls, masks and visors during the last hour of voting, nicknamed “zombie hour”, reserved for voters sick with COVID-19 or suspected of being.
The left-wing pro-independence party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) has announced that it will lead the regional government and seek the support of other parties for a referendum on independence.
“The country is starting a new era with (the separatists) exceeding 50% of the vote for the first time (…) We have immense strength to achieve a referendum and a republic of Catalonia,” said the interim leader of the ERC, Pere Aragones, calling on the President of the Spanish government Pedro Sanchez to start talks on a referendum.
But the Socialist Party, which finished at the top of this fragmented vote, obtaining more than 23% of the vote and as many seats as the ERC – 33, in an assembly which has 135 seats -, should also try to form a government.
Socialist candidate Salvador Illa, who until recently was in charge of the fight against the coronavirus in Spain as Minister of Health, said there was a general desire for reconciliation in Catalonia after years of separatism.
He said he wanted to obtain a parliamentary majority, which would however require an unlikely alliance with other parties.
The center-right Junts movement was credited with only 32 seats, while the far-left separatist CUP party was given nine seats victorious. These two parties are considered essential in the objective of a new separatist government coalition.
Vox (far right) entered the regional parliament with 11 seats, ranking ahead of the Popular Party (PP), the main party of the Spanish right, and the centrist movement Ciudadanos. Vox is already the third party in the national parliament.
The fact that ERC wins more seats than Junts could also strengthen the stability of the national government. ERC had indeed joined its voices to those of the Socialists on several occasions in Madrid in exchange for discussions on the political conflict in Catalonia.
(with Luis Felipe Castilleja, Jordi Rubio, Nacho Doce and Albert Gea; French version Camille Raynaud and Jean-Stéphane Brosse, edited by Marc Angrand and Jean Terzian)
Source: Challenges en temps réel : accueil by www.challenges.fr.
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