Catalan Separatism Refuses to Die as Mas Claims Mandate With 48%

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Artur Mas refuses to quit.

The Catalan president has already ruptured his party in his bid to secede from Spain. On Sunday, voters in the region narrowly rejected his plan to build an independent state and left him needing a deal with an anti-capitalist party that rejects the rule of law if he wants to govern. He’s still not giving up.

Before the vote, Mas had said the regional ballot was effectively a referendum on independence. Afterwards, he said 48 percent support is enough.

“We have a strong mandate to push ahead with this project,” Mas said, declaring victory at a post-election rally in Barcelona.

The result may prove a boon for investors. While Mas and his allies may be determined to plow on, their momentum has been broken, reducing the chances of a head-on collision between Mas and the Spanish government that could see Catalonia excluded from the European Union and its single currency, roiling the market for Spain’s 1 trillion euros ($1.1 trillion) of sovereign debt.

The euro was little changed in early trading in Asia.

Forming a Government
The question is, how will Catalonia be governed?

Junts pel Si, the alliance between Mas’s pro-business Convergencia party and the Catalan Republican Left, known as Esquerra Republicana, won 62 seats in the 135-strong regional assembly, down from the 71 the two parties held running on separate tickets in 2012. To form a separatist majority, Mas needs the 10 lawmakers from anti-capitalist party, the CUP, who’ve pledged not to let him return as regional leader.

“Mas is in a really complicated situation. He really need the CUP, and they in turn will maximize their leverage,” said Jordi Munoz, a political science professor at Barcelona University. “We are heading for a standoff.”

The electoral map in Catalonia has been redrawn since the last election in 2012, with Rajoy’s PP losing almost half its representation while Ciudadanos almost tripled its number of lawmakers to become the main anti-independence party. Podemos, which didn’t exist in 2012, won more votes than Rajoy’s party while the CUP also tripled its number of seats.

Challenging Mas

Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez, who’s aiming to unseat Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in December’s general election, was the first to challenge Mas’s interpretation of the election result. He said Mas should accept that he’d failed to win backing for independence and work to heal the divisions his campaign has opened up in Catalan society instead of pushing ahead with his plans.

“Artur Mas called these elections because he said the majority of Catalans were with him,” Ines Arrimadas, leader of Ciudadanos in Catalonia, said at a post-election rally. “Today the majority of us have turned our backs on him.
Artur Mas can only do one thing: resign.”

Arrimadas said Mas should call another election with parties running on their own again so that Catalans could decide how their region should be governed. That would the fourth regional election since 2010.

General Election

With Spain’s economy recovering after its worst recession in a generation, the result suggests that the surge of radical parties that emerged during the European debt crisis may have passed its high-water mark.

The second Alexis Tsipras government that started work in Greece this month, promises to be very different from the first, after the former firebrand bowed to European demands to stay in the euro. In the U.K., David Cameron’s Conservatives won a surprise majority in May’s general election, while Spain’s own anti-austerity party has seen its support fall by almost half since it lead the polls in January.

The focus may now switch to the Spanish general election in which a potential defeat for Rajoy could lead to a more conciliatory administration in Madrid and the possibility of a settlement for Catalonia, said Angel Talavera, an analyst at Oxford Economics in London, by phone.

“The general election will be what shapes the next stage in this process,” he said.

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