'Stopping independence bid at stake:' parties react to snap election

Pro-independence party accuses Spanish president of "irresponsible" as opposition head says "only PP can face independence challenge"

PP leader Pablo Casado (by Spanish Congress)
PP leader Pablo Casado (by Spanish Congress) / ACN

ACN | Madrid

February 15, 2019 11:58 AM

Catalonia's push for independence is set to play a central role in the next general election, called by Spanish president Pedro Sánchez for April 28, after his government's budget failed to pass in Congress.

While pro-independence parties helped Sánchez come to power last spring, they rejected his spending plan in a crucial parliamentary vote on Wednesday, accusing him of not meeting their demands on Catalonia's self-determination and the trial against independence leaders.

Joan Tardà, ERC leader in the Spanish Congress, has accused the Spanish president of being “extremely irresponsible" and playing “Russian roulette" in calling a snap election. Yet, he called on the pro-independence parties to do their best to “win the election" in order to “tell the world and Spaniards that there’s only one way out: dialogue, negotiations and a self-determination referendum.”

"Only PP can face the Catalan independence challenge"

The head of the PP conservatives, Pablo Casado, made clear what he expects from the election: "only PP can face the Catalan independence challenge. This is what this election is about: whether Spain will remain a hostage of those who want to destroy it: Podemos, and Catalan and Basque pro-independence parties; or a government led by PP in order to stop the independence bid."

Casado has long argued for reimposing direct rule on Catalonia as the best way of handling the political conflict, and on Friday he asked: "Do we want a government ruling with Torra? Or one leading the application of Article 155 [direct rule in Catalonia]?"

He rejected Sánchez's reasons for calling the election, saying, "Sánchez has called the election because we've caught him negotiating with [Catalan president] Torra."

"Making sure dialogue in Catalonia is real"

Irene Montero, the spokesperson of left-wing Podemos, the main political allies of the Socialists, criticized Sánchez for calling a snap election after breaking off talks with pro-independence parties, as "dialogue is the only way to solve" the political situation in Catalonia.

She opened the door to reaching political agreements with Socialists and pro-independence parties again: "Everyone knows, both in Catalonia and Spain, that we’re the most useful political option for stopping the right-wing parties, and for making sure dialogue in Catalonia is real and not only a declaration of intent, and especially for improving people’s lives."

"Spain's course can't be set by those who want to destroy her"

Albert Rivera, the leader of unionist Ciutadans party, also took on Sánchez for negotiating with Catalan pro-independence parties: "Spain's course cannot be set by those who want to destroy her."

He also warned of a new political agreement between Sánchez and pro-independence parties if they end up having a majority of MPs in Congress: "The Frankenstein government has died. But it could be revived."