Ciudadanos under pressure to try and form government in Catalonia

But party says it does not have the numbers and is watching moves of secessionist bloc

Ciudadanos leader Inés Arrimadas on Wednesday.
Ciudadanos leader Inés Arrimadas on Wednesday.Joan Sanchez

Spain’s Ciudadanos party is refusing to give in to pressure from anti-independence parties in Catalonia that are calling on the group to take the initiative in the region after elections last week.

The Socialists (PSOE) on Wednesday joined the Popular Party (PP) in calling for the leader of Ciudadanos in Catalonia, Inés Arrimadas, to take action in the wake of her party being the most-voted in the Catalan election: Ciudadanos won 25.4% of votes and picked up 36 seats in the snap poll called by Madrid using emergency constitutional powers.

The PP have left their calculators at home Miguel Gutiérrez, Ciudadanos

However, Ciudadanos has insisted it is waiting to see if the pro-independence bloc – which won a majority 70 of 135 seats in the regional parliament – will reach an agreement to form government.

The cross fire between the three so-called Constitutionalist parties in the run-up to the Catalan election is now, during the hangover period, centered on Ciudadanos. The PP and the PSOE have decided to focus on the candidacy of Arrimadas for regional premier despite the fact this is a remote possibility given it would only occur if pro-independence parties fail to form government. It is also likely deputies from those parties would abstain in an investiture vote for Arrimadas.

The Socialists are calling on Arrimadas to take some form of action while the PP have gone a step further by demanding not only that she start an initial round of talks on the make-up of the management board of the regional parliament known as the ‘Mesa’ but also attempt to form an executive. However, the PP has not specified how this could be done.

“The PP have left their calculators at home. We would have loved a constitutionalist government but the majority is not there,” said Miguel Gutiérrez, the secretary general of the Cuidadanos parliamentary group in the Spanish Congress on Wednesday in response to the criticism from its main source of opposition in Catalonia.

The big challenge is not winning elections but showing this counts for something José Luis Ábalos, Socialists

“If the PP is nervous, they should calm down. We haven’t given up on anything. It is just that we know how to add up. And we don’t have the numbers to bid for the premiership,” said Cuidadanos deputy in the Catalan parliament Carlos Carrizosa, who is close to Arrimadas. Carrizosa has linked the criticism of his party with the electoral failure of the PP and the stagnation of the Socialists in last week’s Catalan election.

The PP saw their total number of seats fall to just four while the Socialists only won one new seat, raising its total to 17.

It was the PP leader in Catalonia, Xavier García Albiol, who was the first to raise his voice regarding Ciudadanos after the election. “Ciudadanos has the obligation to claim to the right to govern,” he said on Saturday.

Meanwhile PP congressional spokesperson Rafael Hernando has said: “It’s surprising that Ciudadanos has handed the initiative to the pro-secessionists.”

Ciudadanos insists it is waiting to see if the pro-independence bloc will reach an agreement to form government.

The Socialists are of a similar opinion calling on Arrimadas to exercise leadership although not going as far as on her to try to run as a candidate for the premiership. “The big challenge is not winning elections but showing this counts for something,” said PSOE organizational secretary José Luis Ábalos.

The Catalan employers association Fomento del Trabajo has called on Arrimadas to try and form government. But sources within the Ciudadanos leadership circle have said there will be no change of position.

English version by George Mills.

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