Mas puts off Catalan status vote until 2016

Regional leader’s announcement stuns pro-independence partners at ERC, who want referendum whether Madrid agrees or not

The Catalan government won’t hold its independence referendum next year — as previously planned — if the Spanish government doesn’t approve it, regional premier Artur Mas said Thursday.

The Catalan nationalist CiU bloc leader said in a radio interview that he would wait until 2016 to hold the status vote, leaving his pro-independence parliamentary partners stunned by the announcement. Oriol Junqueras, the leader of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) — the party that supports Mas’s government in the regional legislature, and which has demanded that the vote be held with or without Madrid’s approval — is scheduled to meet with Mas on Friday.

On his Twitter account on Thursday, Junqueras wrote: “In 2014 we will have to decide our future and we will do all that is in our power so that it will happen. As soon as independence comes, the better.”

Catalan government spokesman Francesc Homs said that there had been “too much expectation” that Madrid would approve holding the referendum.

Speaking on behalf of the Popular Party government, Public Works Minister Ana Pastor stressed the need to “look for agreements to guarantee co-existence” between the central and regional powers.

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