Catalan separatism in disarray after ruling coalition split

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Catalonia’s separatist movement has suffered its biggest rift since becoming the main political force in northeastern Spain in the past decade after the junior member of its coalition in power abandoned the government of the region.

The Together for Catalonia party announced on Friday that it was leaving the Barcelona government led by regional president Pere Aragonès from the Republican Left of Catalonia coalition member. The move came a week after his top Catalan cabinet member was sacked by Aragonès.

The official break ends a partnership that has existed between the two main pro-secession parties since they joined forces for a regional election in 2015. They had a common goal of strengthening the separatists’ grip on power in the wealthy region, where many residents feel different from the rest of the 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 it is proven that is not true,” said Laura Borràs, leader of Together for Catalonia. “As of today, we join the opposition…we don’t want to be part of a government that is not moving towards independence.”

Aragonès, who came to power last year, said his party would try to rule in a minority and did not plan to bring forward regional elections now scheduled for 2025. Still, the political divorce deals a blow to the separatist push of the region, which has floundered to find its way five years after its unsuccessful 2017 secession attempt that landed several of its leaders in jail or on the run in Europe.

“My goal is for the country (of Catalonia) to win,” Aragonès said after Borràs’ stinging attack. “You are not serving the best interest of the citizens by abandoning your responsibilities. I will not do that.

The two rivals had managed to muddle through despite public differences over what strategy to follow to achieve the elusive dream of Catalonia separating from the rest of Spain, an outcome half of the Catalans oppose.

Aragonès’ party backs negotiations with Spain’s central government, which coincided with the pardon of the jailed leaders of the 2017 bid, as the only way to ultimately secure an authorized referendum on independence.

Together for Catalonia, the party which was led by former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont until the start of this year, insists the talks are going nowhere and wants a more radical approach.

The Republican Left for Catalonia is also playing a key role in Spain’s parliament to help the country’s left-wing coalition government led by socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez pass key bills and a budget. Aragonès may now need Sánchez’s Socialists in Catalonia to get things done.

The tension came to a head last week when Together for Catalonia asked Aragonès to face a vote of no confidence. Aragonès responded by dismissing his vice-president, Together for Catalonia, the first member of the government. Together for Catalonia then organized a vote among its party members and 55% voted to leave the coalition.

The Catalan secession campaign debacle comes as Scottish nationalists push for a second independence vote from Britain since the No side won in 2014.

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