Voters reject Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, choose separatists

Updated: Dec 23, 2017, 11:50 IST | Agencies | Barcelona

Rajoy weakens, secessionists keep slim majority, but they may have difficulty forming a government

Separatists looked set on Friday to regain power in Catalonia after voters rejected Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's attempt to defuse the independence movement, instead re-igniting the country's biggest political crisis in decades. With the count from Thursday's Catalan parliament election almost complete, separatist parties had secured a slim majority, sending stocks down around 1 percent on fears that the euro zone's fourth-largest economy will be hurt by tensions with its richest region.

Catalonia leader Carles Puigedemont
Catalonia leader Carles Puigedemont

After several strained months, the regional election has failed to produce a solution to the standoff. Rajoy is weakened; the secessionists kept a majority, but it was reduced and they may have difficulty forming a government; and support for the unionist Ciudadanos has surged, but not enough to catapult them into power.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Pics/AFP
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Pics/AFP

Rajoy, who called the election after sacking the previous, secessionist government, had hoped to mobilise hitherto quiescent supporters of union with Spain and deal separatism a decisive blow. Instead, his own party performed miserably, and the result raises the question of a return to power for Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan president he had deposed.

No national elections
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Friday ruled out calling a national election. Rajoy said he would make an effort to hold talks with the new Catalan government. However, he did not clarify whether he would be willing to meet Puigdemont, who is in self-imposed exile in Brussels.

Victory for Catalan republic
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont on Friday said the absolute majority won by separatists in a regional election on Thursday was a victory of the "Catalan republic" over the Spanish state. Puigdemont was speaking from Brussels, where he went into self-imposed exile.

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