BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Catalonia’s separatist movement has suffered its biggest rift since it became the leading political force in northeast Spain for the past decade after the junior member of its ruling coalition abandoned the region’s government.
The Together for Catalonia party announced Friday that it was leaving the Barcelona-based government headed regional President Pere Aragonès of senior coalition member Republican Left of Catalonia. The move came a week after its leading member in the Catalan Cabinet was fired by Aragonès.
The official breakup ends a partnership that had existed between the two main pro-secession parties since they joined forces for a regional election in 2015. They had the shared goal of boosting the separatists’ hold on power in the wealthy region, where many resident feel different from the rest of Spaniards.
“If we talk about winners or losers, Together for Catalonia wins and Pere Aragonès loses. He loses because he thought he could lead a coalition government, and today that is proven not to be true,” Together for Catalonia leader Laura Borràs said. “From today, we join the opposition … we don’t want to be in any government that does not advance toward independence.”
Aragonès, who came to power last year, said his party will try to rule in the minority and that he does not plan to bring forward regional elections now set for 2025. Still the political divorce is a blow to the region’s separatist push, which has been floundering to find its way forward five years after its unsuccessful 2017 secession bid that landed several of its leaders in jail or on the run in Europe.
“My goal is that the winner is the country (of Catalonia),” Aragonès said after Borràs’ scathing attack. “You don’t serve the best interest of the citizenry by abandoning your responsibilities. I won’t do that.”
The two rivals had managed to muddle along despite public discrepancies over what strategy to follow to reach the elusive dream of a breaking Catalonia away from the rest of Spain, an outcome that half of Catalans oppose.
Aragonès’ party backs negotiations with Spain’s central government, which have coincided with pardons for jailed leaders of the 2017 bid, as the only way to eventually secure an authorized referendum on independence.
Together for Catalonia, the party that was led by former Catalan chief Carles Puigdemont until earlier this year, insists that the talks are going nowhere and wants a more radical approach.
The Republican Left for Catalonia also plays a key role in Spain’s Parliament to help the nation’s left-wing coalition government led by Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez pass key bills and a budget. Aragonès may now need the Sánchez’s Socialists in Catalonia to get anything done.
The tension reached its peak last week when Together for Catalonia asked Aragonès to face a no-confidence vote. Aragonès responded by axing his vice-president, Together for Catalonia’s top member in the government. Together for Catalonia then held a vote among its party members and 55% voted to leave the coalition.
The debacle for the Catalan secession push comes as Scottish nationalists are pushing for a second vote on independence from Britain since the “No” side won in 2014.
Joseph Wilson, The Associated Press