Spain plans new elections in Catalonia to end independence bid: opposition

The Spanish government has secured opposition support for dissolving Catalonia’s parliament and holding new elections there in January in its bid to defuse the regional government’s push for independence.

The Socialists, the main opposition, said on Friday they would back special measures to impose central rule on the region to thwart the secessionist-minded Catalan government and end a crisis that has unsettled the euro and hurt confidence in the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who wants opposition support to be able to present a united front in the crisis, has called an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday to pave the way for Madrid establishing central control in the region.

The government on Friday would not confirm whether January elections formed a part of the package, with Rajoy saying only that the measures would be announced on Saturday.

However a government spokesman saw regional elections as likely. “The logical end to this process would be new elections established within the law,” said government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo at a weekly government press conference.

It will be the first time in Spain’s four decades of democracy that Madrid has invoked the constitution to effectively sack a regional government and call new elections.

Rajoy wants as broad a consensus as possible before taking the step, which has raised the prospect of more large-scale protests in Catalonia, where pro-independence groups have been able to bring more than one million people out onto the streets.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, a former journalist who is spearheading the secession campaign, has refused to renounce independence, citing an overwhelming vote in favor of secession at a referendum on Oct.1.

Catalan authorities said around 90 percent voted for independence though only 43 percent of voters participated. Opponents of secession mostly stayed home.

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