Catalan leader unveils new government after coalition crisis

After the Catalan regional coalition was thrown into crisis in recent weeks, a new minority government has emerged after bitter infighting between separatist groups.

Catalan leader unveils new government after coalition crisis
Catalan regional president Pere Aragones. Photo: Pau BARRENA/AFP

Seven new faces entered Catalonia’s regional administration on Tuesday, now a minority government following a crisis that saw the hardline JxCat withdraw from the separatist coalition.

“We are turning a new page and will continue working with total determination,” said regional leader Pere Aragones of the left-wing ERC party following his government’s first meeting without JxCat.

JxCat decided to quit the coalition after 55 percent of party activists voted to leave against 42 percent who wanted to stay.

Although JxCat’s departure left ERC running a minority government with just 33 of the Catalan parliament’s 135 seats, Aragones ruled out early elections, quickly moving to restructure his cabinet.

READ ALSO: Why Catalan separatists are in crisis five years after independence vote

Four of the new ministers are from ERC and three from other allied separatist parties.

In order to pass key measures such as the regional budget, Aragones could seek support from Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialists, whose minority left-wing coalition is backed by ERC within the Spanish parliament.

Although both ERC and JxCat want independence for Catalonia, they have been sharply at odds over how to achieve it.

JxCat is headed by former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont who played a key role in staging the October 2017 referendum banned by Madrid and the failed independence bid that followed, sparking Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.

Puigdemont fled abroad to escape prosecution while others who stayed in Spain were arrested and tried. Nine were handed heavy jail terms by the Spanish courts but later pardoned.

The failed independence bid triggered a bitter rift between the two separatist parties that has never healed.

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Rain does little to dampen turnout in Spanish local and regional votes

Heavy rain in parts of Spain hasn't stopped Spaniards voting in today's local and regional elections, with turnout rates by mid-afternoon already beating 2019 levels across most of the country.

Rain does little to dampen turnout in Spanish local and regional votes

Heavy rains across parts of Spain have done little to dampen turnout in Spain’s municipal and regional elections on Sunday, with polling stations seeing a slight increase on turnout levels compared to the 2019 elections.

More than 35.5 million people are eligible to vote in the municipal elections, and 18.3 million for the regional elections this Sunday. As of 2:00 p.m 36.7 percent of registered voters had already exercised their democratic right to vote, a figure that puts it 1.6 percentage points ahead of the level in 2019, when it was 35.10 percent by mid-afternoon.

Some political pundits had questioned whether the poor weather might affect people’s enthusiasm to vote, but turnout as of 2:00 p.m had risen across the country, particularly in the Valencian Community (up by 5.17 percent), somewhere that had heavy rains throughout the morning, as well as in La Rioja (up 5.11 percent) and Murcia (up 4 percent).

Turnout rates in Aragon, Madrid, Navarra, Asturias, the Balearic Islands and Castilla-La Mancha all increased by around 3 percent, whereas Melilla has registered the lowest level so far, with just 25.71 percent turnout, a decrease of 0.53 percent on 2019.

READ ALSO: Spain’s local elections set to put PM on the back foot

The only other regions where turnout has not gone up, besides Melilla, are Catalonia and the Basque Country. 

The elections, which will elect both local councils as well as the regional executives, are seen as an important political barometer heading into the general election scheduled for the end of the year.

Polls predict that the Spanish right will oust Socialist (PSOE) Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, though it remains unclear if centre-right party Partido Popular (PP), led by Alberto Núñez Feijóo, will do enough to win an overall majority or be forced to rely on far-right party Vox in some form of coalition arrangement as the party do in the Castile and León region.

On Sunday, voters are casting their ballots in 8,131 municipalities across Spain and electing the regional governments in 12 of Spain’s 17 regions, 10 of which are currently under PSOE control. 

If PP makes strong gains in the regional results, particularly if they manage to wrestle control of the Valencia region from the Socialists – a region viewed as something of a political bellwether in Spain – the stage seems set for the Spanish right to return to La Moncloa and govern Spain again.

A strong showing from Vox, however, or if PSOE outperform expectations, would present its own problems for PP and Feijóo, who would then have to simultaneously navigate appealing to the political centre ground and keep Vox at arm’s length, publicly at least, while knowing that he may well come to rely on them later in the year.

The polls close at 8:00 p.m.

Spain does not do exit polls like many other countries do, though there is expected to be a quick turnaround on counts with initial results due from 10:00 p.m.