Catalonia rules out early elections after junior party exits

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BARCELONA, Oct 7 (Reuters) – The head of Catalonia’s pro-independence government on Friday ruled out calling a snap election after his junior coalition partner pulled out, sparking the biggest crisis facing the region’s separatist movement Spanish for a decade.

Catalan leader Pere Aragones of the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya party said he would announce a new government formation in the coming days after junior partner Junts withdrew its support for the regional coalition.

The situation in Catalonia has wider ramifications as Esquerra backs Spain’s socialist coalition government, which faces elections in 2023.

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In an internal vote, 55.7% of Junts party members approved the departure of the regional coalition government amid a dispute with Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya leading the administration, Junts said in a statement. .

“In these difficult and complex times, the stability of governments is essential,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said at a press conference in Prague where he was attending a European Union summit.

“I support stability, in this case of the government of Catalonia.”

Aragones told a press conference in Barcelona on Friday that it would be “irresponsible” to leave Catalonia without a government.

Laura Borras, president of Junts, said the Catalan leader “lost his democratic legitimacy”.

Separatists have been thrown into turmoil five years after a chaotic Catalan independence bid in 2017 plunged Spain into its worst political crisis in decades.

The crux of the dispute within the coalition has centered on the pace of the movement towards independence, an issue that divides moderates and hardliners.

Esquerra is in favor of negotiating with Madrid to agree a binding referendum and widen the Catalans’ support for leaving Spain. Around 52% of Catalans oppose independence and 41% support it, according to a June poll.

Junts, who ruled the wealthy northeast region when his government gained independence in 2012, backs a more aggressive approach – avoiding talks with Madrid and potentially repeating the events of 2017.

Catalonia then held an independence referendum despite being banned by the courts and facing opposition from Madrid, and then issued a short-lived declaration of independence.

Several high-level leaders have been imprisoned for nearly four years in connection with these events while others have self-imposed exile.

Junts announced plans for an internal vote on staying in government last week after Catalonia’s leader sacked his deputy, who belongs to Junts, after the party proposed a parliamentary vote of confidence in the government.

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Reporting by Joan Faus, additional reporting by Graham Keeley; Editing by Aislinn Laing, Paul Simao and Hugh Lawson

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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