CATALAN BID FOR INDEPENDENCE

Rajoy to meet with heads of Podemos, Ciudadanos to discuss Catalonia

Prime minister seeking solutions over region’s bid for independence He is also keen to keep the issue out of the upcoming general election campaign

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera, in a file photo.
Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera, in a file photo.GERARD JULIEN / AFP

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has set up meetings for tomorrow with the leaders of emerging political parties Ciudadanos and Podemos to discuss Catalonia’s attempts to declare unilateral independence from Spain. Albert Rivera, the head of center-right Ciudadanos, will be meeting the Spanish leader at 1pm, while Pablo Iglesias, from left-wing anti-austerity group Podemos, will meet Rajoy at 4.30pm.

The prime minister has already met with Socialist Party chief Pedro Sánchez to discuss possible solutions to the current territorial conflict and is also due to hold talks with other opposition politicians. He is keen to avoid the issue of Catalonia dominating the campaign for the upcoming general election in Spain, due to be held in December.

Rivera conveyed to Rajoy his support “in the defense of democratic laws and the unity of all Spaniards”

Catalonia spent several years seeking a referendum on independence, but was thwarted in its efforts by the central government in Madrid, which is fiercely opposed to any change to the status quo. In response, regional elections held in September were posited by nationalist parties as a de facto plebiscite on possible secession for Catalonia. While pro-independence groups Junts pel Sí and CUP did not win the majority of the vote, they did secure the most seats inside the regional assembly. This week the two parties agreed on a document declaring “the beginning of the process to create an independent Catalan state.”

Rivera spoke to Rajoy by phone on Thursday morning, and conveyed his support “in the defense of democratic laws and the unity of all Spaniards.” Rivera – whose party started as a non-nationalist group in Catalonia, before making the jump to the national political scene – suggested to Rajoy that he should resort to the Constitutional Court in order to deal with this week’s independence declaration from Junts pel Sí and CUP.

“Whoever is in power in the next legislature, there must be unity,” said Rivera on Thursday. “There can’t be any divisions between democrats.”

Democracy consists of establishing dialogue, not just with those who don’t think the same, but with those who think differently” Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias

Pablo Iglesias, meanwhile, was critical of the prime minister on Wednesday for excluding his Podemos party from talks over Catalonia. Rajoy had stated that he would speak to representatives from Podemos if they changed their view on independence for the region. “Democracy consists of establishing dialogue, not just with those who don’t think the same, but with those who think differently,” said Iglesias in response. “I’m convinced, Mariano, that if you think about it you’d agree with me.”

While Iglesias is yet to specify the proposal that he will put on the table with Rajoy during the first meeting, it is possible that the Podemos leader will argue that his party is the only group that can negotiate with all of the political forces in the Catalan parliament, including the radical leftist CUP, given that the two parties share a social program.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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