BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — A dispute among Catalonia’s separatists scuttled a first attempt by the parliament of Spain’s restive northeast to elect a new regional chief Friday.
Pere Aragonès failed to win the endorsement of the regional legislature based in Barcelona to form a government after he received only 42 votes. That left him far from the 68 “yes” votes needed for the required absolute majority of the 135-seat house.
Aragonès will have a second chance Tuesday, when the bar will be lowered and he will simply need more votes for him than against him.
Aragonès is Catalonia’s acting president and the candidate of the Republic Left of Catalonia, one of three parties that support a break from the rest of Spain.
Aragonès was backed only by his party and the far-left and separatist CUP party. The pro-union parties combined for 61 “no” votes, but it was the abstention of the32 members for the separatist Together for Catalonia party that ruined his bid.
One sticking point among the separatists is what course of action they should take to achieve a rupture from Spain.
But the in-fighting is also about pure political power.
Republic Left of Catalonia had to play second fiddle to Together for Catalonia in the previous coalition government that collapsed last year.
Together for Catalonia, meanwhile, has morphed in recent years from a pro-business party into a radical vehicle for former regional president Carles Puigdemont, who runs the party from Belgium, where he fled to escape Spanish justice after he led a failed secession bid in 2017.
Together for Catalonia is pushing for a private foundation led by Puigdemont, the Council for the Republic, to have a leadership role in charting the separatist movement’s future.
Albert Batet of Together for Catalonia said the Council for the Republic was needed so the movement “could act beyond the reach of the Spanish state.”
Aragonès appealed to his estranged separatist brethren to set aside the differences that provoked the early election in January.
“We all need to move past our lack of trust with those who are our fellow travelers,” he said.
Pro-separatist politicians have controlled Catalonia’s government for the past decade as regional politics became radicalized amid Spain’s economic slump within the global recession.
The relatively wealthy region of 7.5 million that speaks Catalan along with Spanish remains deeply divided. Roughly 50% of Catalans want to carve out an independent state, while the other half want to remain a part of Spain and see secession as a threat to their livelihoods and identity.
A second failure by Aragonès next week would leave the parliament with less than two months to elect a president or new elections would be triggered.